Economy might just cost Tories the election

Tue Oct 7, 2008 2:27pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The slide in the polls for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives has been so steep as voter worry over the state of the economy has heightened that the possibility of his losing the upcoming general election is now being raised.

The Conservatives have led in the polls throughout the short campaign for the October 14 election and are still ahead but the momentum moved against them this month as near panic struck stock markets and gloomy headlines dominated the news.

Political strategist Rick Anderson said Harper is being hit by perceptions he has failed to act to prevent credit-crisis contagion from damaging Canada.

"This nonengagement on his and the public's primary issue is hurting him badly, threatening not just that sought majority (in Parliament) but unless he gets on top of this, conceivably even reelection," Anderson said.

The Conservatives are now only three to seven percentage points ahead of the Liberals, an improvement from a rough tie before the election was called on September 7, but less than half the 10 to 15 points seen in the first half of the campaign.

Harper, who admitted on Tuesday to not being "emotionally expressive," maintains Canada's banks and households are in good shape, affected, but not paralyzed, by the crisis that has swallowed homes and banks in the United States and elsewhere.

His government has been in regular contact with the central bank, the banks and the regulatory agency that oversees the banks, and he said in a newspaper interview that technical steps could be taken if necessary to shore up the markets.

He had taken an early lead in the polls on the strength of his pitch that a steady hand was needed for uncertain economic times, but that was before markets started plunging.   Continued...

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper pauses during a news conference in Toronto October 7, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>