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"...[Kinsella is] a modern-day Machiavelli, the mastermind who ran war rooms for Jean Chretien and Dalton McGuinty... He's the ultimate political insider... [The War Room] has plenty of fascinating insights and is a must-read for political junkies."

- The Toronto Sun

"The top Canadian spin doctor...tells all!"

- The National Post

"Warren Kinsella’s new book is a must-read for anyone interested in political campaigning in Canada. And not just political campaigning.…I wish I’d had the chance to read The War Room before I became Stephen Harper’s campaign manager; it might have saved me from many mistakes and months of painful learning on the job."

- Tom Flanagan, The Literary Review of Canada

"The War Room is a rich, detailed, and substantive primer on how to run a winning war room - warts, pizza boxes, smelly couches and all - from a master war roomer."

- The Hill Times

"Kinsella has crafted a handy little guide for politicos and non-politicos alike. Just keep it away from the kids."

- The Winnipeg Free Press

"... a great read ... full of fascinating stories..."

- John Moore, CFRB

"...I don't want to say [he's a] genius...but there's valuable insights here..."

- John Oakley, AM640

"I just got one copy, but I plan to get more!"

- John Wright, Ipsos, CFRB

"I do recommend [The War Room] to everyone."

- Charles Adler, Adler Online

"He's Canada's James Carville...a must-read...If you really want to win, you need this book!"

- Tommy Schnurmacher, CJAD

"A fascinating book...full of great stories."

- Ken Rockburn, CPAC


LOSERS: The Liberal campaign – because their plane wouldn’t fly, and has therefore become a perfect symbol of a campaign that has gone utterly awry. The only good news is that no one was hurt. (Some people richly deserve to be hurt, however.)
WINNERS/LOSERS: Canadians, for attracting the attention of The Newspaper Of Record – for the Puffin Poop. Figures. When we want them to pay attention to softwood lumber, unfair farm subsidies, our perfectly-fine beef, objectionable foreign policy, etc. , etc., they could give a tinker’s damn. But put together a web site showing a bird defecating on the Leader of the Opposition, and it’s the shot heard around the world. It’s a nutty old world, ain’t it?
WINNERS/LOSERS: Canadians, once again, because the state of the national economy finally attracted the attention of the political parties – in a context where things seem to be getting worse, and rather rapidly, too. We’re all glad they’re finally talking about the issue that matters the most – but we’re unhappy it’s taking a global financial crisis to persuade them to do so. (Oh, and this: how many CanWest reporters does it take to screw in a light bulb? Four – because that is the minimum number of bylines that top every CanWest wire story!)
LOSER: Garth Turner. Full disclosure: I am a friend and a fan of his main opponent, Lisa Raitt. But Garth did himself no favours in his riding, this week – with CPAC, with CBC, with pretty much anyone. Lisa, meanwhile, did what any smart politician does when his/her opponent is setting himself on fire: she sat backed and watched. Could she win? Not only could she, I believe she will.
WINNER: Bob Rae, because he accepted an impossible task with equanimity. Had he stayed away from central campaign – as many other Liberals are now doing – he would have been accused of disloyalty and harbouring secret leadership ambitions. By showing up, he knows full well that he risks falling into the vortex of the “struggling/beleaguered/losing” campaign coverage. He came anyway. Banishes any suggestion he’s not a “real Liberal,” I’d say.
WINNER: Jack Layton: For being one of the first guys to talk about health care in this campaign – and for offering a not-bad suggestion. The economy and health care are back as the predominant preoccupations of voters (are you paying attention, Stéphane?). At Global TV yesterday morning, a doctor asked me why the politicians weren’t discussing health care. Jack Layton heard him, apparently.
WINNER: Me! For getting up today, at an ungodly hour to do CBC radio hits in Quebec City, Thunder Bay, Corner Brook, Sudbury, Whitehorse, Calgary, Fredericton (in that order) to talk about the Liberal campaign. I plan to say (a) it’s too soon to write the Grits off (b) Canada is still Liberal and (c) if they emphasize “team” and “brand,” they could inflict some serious damage on Team Tory.

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Man oh man, it sure is a good thing there aren't any "has beens" around for this kind of stuff. Because I can think of one fellow "has been" who would be ripping some peoples' heads off right about now.

We'll have to wait for their executions until after the election, I guess.

In the meantime, here's a repeat of a previously-viewed, but much-loved, episode. I fear we all may be seeing this one quite a few times this season.

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Enough of this insanity. Enough.

McGuinty is onside, most notably and most recently. So what will the Conservatives' excuse be for saying no, now?

The Conservative Party started to win the 2006 election on Boxing Day, when a young woman was actually gunned down in broad daylight on Yonge Street. Conservative partisans, all of all people, know the immense importance of this issue.

So, will they now do the right thing?

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...and the markets have been doing really, really badly, too!

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"With what we pay you for torqued headlines, don't you think you could run spell check every once in a while?"


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About to do a hit on Global TV on the election. If you want a birthday, anniversary or bar mitzvah acknowledged on-air, PayPal me five bucks and I'm your guy.

We're www.warrenkinsella.com - your full-service web site!

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WINNER: The Liberals, for their ‘Harpernomics’ spot. It isn’t complementary towards the Tories or their leader, but it isn’t a Willie Horton-style attack spot, either. Tough at the start, it concludes with lots of uplifting images and major chords. It’ll stop some of the bleeding, I expect. Tellingly, almost all of the conservatives who commented on my site (see below) grudgingly admitted it was effective, adding (a) that Dion was conspicuous by his absence, and (b) the photo of Stephen Harper made him look like James Dean, which will no doubt amuse the Prime Minister. Advantage Team Grit.
WINNER: Those of us who like to see the parties racing for our vote, and not just one of them sauntering across the finish line. While the Tories still have an impressive lead, there is plenty of time for a frontrunner stumble, or a challenger’s debate “defining moment.” The possibilities remain what they have been for months: anything between a Tory majority and a Grit minority.
WINNERS: Parliamentary spouses. I am a big fan of the spouses of the main party leaders – Laureen Harper for her extraordinary good humour and poise, Janine Krieber for her stoicism and determination, Olivia Chow for figuring out how to be married to a party leader and a Member of Parliament simultaneously. These three people – two of whom might even read this web site, I am told – deserve the Order of Canada for what they put up with, and for their own contributions to the greater good (eg. “I can’t believe you said that. You are an idiot. Get back out there and apologize.”) Huzzah!
LOSER: The Carbon Tax. It would be churlish to say I told you so, I told you so, etc. It was a big mistake, most Liberals recognize that either publicly or privately, and promise never to do something like that again. Tip for the future: when the popular Liberal Premiers of Ontario and Quebec are heading in one direction, don’t go the opposite way, boys and girls.
WINNER: The Tory plan on mat leave. Extending this to the self-employed, like my wife, was a stroke of genius. When it was unveiled, I got an email from a reporter pal, so I announced it to the group of women with whom I was meeting. One of them covered her face. “Oh my God, he’s going to win,” she said.
• Because I love Face To Face, and because it is a God-like genius of a song, and because it is about being gay and discriminated against – and because the SoCons in the Tory and Grit ranks have not been sufficiently challenged about their plans for the rest of us, this time around – here is FTF’s ‘I Won’t Lie Down.’ My God, I love this song:

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My Lord, someone up in Ottawa took the advice of me and my friends: get out the smelling salts!

Anyway, it looks good on them. It'll also have an impact, I wager.

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Should they go neg? Will they?

You know what I think, I suspect. This isn't about one man's views, anymore. It's about protecting the Liberal Party from a decade or more in the wilderness.

Here's a snippet from The War Room:


When appearing on televised pundit panels, or when being quoted by the print media, [politicos] know that it is not a good idea to sound too enthusiastic about hardball politics, however. So they will make soothing noises about the need to “do politics differently,” and to avoid “the old politics,” or what has been called “the politics of personal destruction.” They make these disclaimers because they know it is what the voting public wants to hear (even if it isn’t what the voting public necessarily believes, but more on that later). Watching them, you would think such politicos seldom would utter a discouraging word about anyone.

But that’s a pile of crap. Political people love duking it out with their adversaries, and people who vote love to watch. And that, partly, is what this book is about: it argues that the accelerated, aggressive, around-the-clock stuff done by war roomers helps to win campaigns. And not just political campaigns, either.

Now, before I became the Prince of Darkness, I was a University of Calgary law student and a part-time newspaper reporter on the police beat. On weekends, I would earn a few extra dollars at the Calgary Herald. Most of the time, I would sit in the newsroom and listen to the police radio. Whenever a drugstore was robbed or someone was murdered, I would hop in my battered old Gremlin and speed out onto Calgary’s freeways to learn more. If the car crashes I heard about over the police band were sufficiently spectacular, I would also file stories about them, and my news editor would almost always assign a photographer to take pictures. When there wasn’t very much else going on in the news world, we would run photos of the car crashes.

Whenever we did that, I was reminded of two things. First, you could publish a fistful of photographs of African children starving to death, corpses floating alongside an overloaded Indian ferry, or the bombed-out wreckage of someone’s home in a war zone, and no one would call in to complain. If they cared, they sure weren’t saying anything about it to us.

Second, if you ran a photo of a car crash involving locals — without bodies, of course — you’d better darn well make sure you had someone around the newsroom to handle the calls of complaint, because you’d get plenty. Subscribers would call in to declare, loudly, that we were insensitive, and ghoulish, and beneath contempt. They would call to cancel their subscriptions. But here’s the funny thing: whenever I was out at those accident scenes, scribbling away in my notepad, I noticed that everyone making their way past the orange pylons and the traffic cops — and I mean everyone — would slow down to take a long hard look. Every once in a while, I’d see them fumbling for a camera, so that they could take some pictures, too.

Later on, when I got involved in full-time politics, I remembered this car-crash thing. When a microphone is pointed in their direction, folks will insist they do not like it when political parties, or newspapers, involve themselves with life’s unpleasantness. They will tell pollsters they disapprove of those sorts of things. They will heap opprobrium on the perceived wrongdoers. But, believe me: ten times out of ten (and when they think no one is looking), they will slow down and take a look. Political consultants — the smart ones, anyway — know that. To mangle a phrase used by Dick Morris, one of the smarter political strategists around, it’s a mutually reinforcing deceit.

Political types say they don’t like doing the tough stuff — but they do. And voters say they aren’t influenced by tough stuff — but they are.

They are, they are.

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WINNERS: The NDP. The Valley of Death, for the Liberal Party of Canada, is trading places with the New Democrats, as very nearly happened in 1984. If that were to happen, it wouldn’t be just Stéphane Dion looking for a job – everyone associated with the 2008 team would be gone, too, and unlikely to ever be seen again in a central campaign. So: is it true? Are the Dippers surging, and the Grits dropping? Not quite. While I think the Tory spin about the change in strategy is just that – spin – it can’t be denied that the polls contain trends that should concern any federal Liberal, particularly on the leadership front. Time to start kicking Dipper ass, Grits.
WINNER: The Hidden Agenda. There’s a reason why conservative columnists bray and screech that the “hidden agenda” tag doesn’t work – because it does work. Not that a Chrétienite “has been” should ever be giving the current crop of geniuses any advice, but has it occurred to them why Stephen Harper won’t let his cabinet, caucus and candidates ever get near a microphone? Exactly. Canadians suspect that a Trojan Horse is being quietly wheeled into their backyards by cardigan-wearing Tory youth, and that kind of makes them nervous. So why aren’t the Liberals kicking the crap out of the Conservatives for having a hidden agenda, in a systematic and relentless way? Tell them they are right to be afraid!
LOSERS: The Liberal debate prep team – if they don’t help to turn around Dion’s plummeting leadership numbers in a couple weeks. If they do, they’ll be big-time winners, and we’ll all be talking about them for 100 years. Stay tuned.
WINNER: Andrew Steele, a Chrétien and McGuinty man the Globe is lucky to have around. Because I like him so much, I will forgive his shameless theft of my pioneering “winner” and “loser” concept. Andrew is a smart fellow and worth reading.
LOSER: Economies. We were with a smart banker most of the weekend, and he was regularly eyeballing his Berry throughout. If Lehman Brothers falls this morning, and it looked like it would last night, the markets will be a shitstorm for days and weeks to come. It won’t be enough for the federal leaders to say it’s an American problem, either, as this collapse will cause a tsunami of economic woe everywhere. What are your plans for the economy, Messrs. Harper, Dion, Layton and Duceppe? We are all ears, today.

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No winners or losers today, folks. Just some thoughts about what I think is happening. They're worth what you pay for them.

First off, I don't get the impression Campaign 2008 has a Ballot Question yet. In any campaign, of course, the state of the economy is always a big concern for everyone. In this contest, so far, economic worries haven't motivated voters to the extent that I thought they would. With gas around $1.40 a litre, and companies shutting down, that isn't just unusual - it's amazing.

Secondly, the two Steves. The Harper one is performing very well - despite a gaffe-prone War Room and a near-invisible cabinet and caucus. He has become a very capable politician, one with a Chrétien-like focus on The Win. The other Steve, meanwhile - the Dion one - is having a tougher time. Dion is possibly one of the brainiest guys to lead a political party since Pierre Trudeau. He is also respectful of voters, and he always strives to provide them with answers and policies that are thoughtful and immensely complex. In the TV age, however, that respectful approach doesn't work and never will. Academe and politics are mutually-exclusive concepts.

Thirdly, you will always hear guys like me saying "campaigns matter." That's because, on balance, they do. Contrary to the media shorthand, most Canadians don't regard elections as an inconvenience. They're not. For those of us privileged to live in one of the world's great democracies, we know that elections are about choices - and the choices we make profoundly matter. In this race, the "choice" seems to relate entirely to Stephen Harper, and no one else. Is he ready for a majority? Can he control the extremists that may still lurk behind the curtains? Both the Tories and the Grits seem to agree this campaign is a referendum, more or less, on the Conservative leader.

So who is winning the referendum, then? Barring a dramatic emerging issue or a big mistake - barring a big shift after the debates - Harper is winning this thing. The only question, after a week, is by how much.

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Dum dee dum...CBC is going to regret this relationship...dum dee dum...


Ipsos: Conservatives 38%, Liberals 29%, NDP 13%, Green 11%, Bloc 8%
Nanos: Conservatives 38%, Liberals 31%, NDP 14%, Green 9%, Bloc 9%
Ekos: Conservatives 37%, Liberals 26%, NDP 19%, Green 10%, Bloc 8%
Harris/Decima: Conservatives 41%, Liberals 26%, NDP 14% , Bloc 9%, Green 8%

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LOSERS: All the political parties. All of the leaders had bad weeks, in one way or another – all of them. Harper had Puffin Gate, a war room in need of adult supervision, and resigning candidates; Dion had the “liar liar” epithets, a campaign in need of a plane, and resigning candidates. Duceppe faced former separatist supporters questioning the Bloc’s raison d’etre; Layton looked terrible (particularly with his own base) in the Elizabeth May leadership debate controversy; and May herself seemed to end the week calling Canadians “stupid.” Not a good start for any of them, particularly. Here’s hoping Week Two is better.
LOSERS: Those of us seeking a clear sense of public opinion. At the end of the day, I will always depend on Ipsos and Nanos (that rhymes!) for a better picture of public opinion. The other guys rely overmuch on Internet-based pools that aren’t sufficiently random, contain typical voters, etc. If Ipsos and Nanos are right, and I believe they are, there is a race still to be won.
WINNERS: Oil companies. Every single political leader agrees oil bosses are gouging us – but none of them seem to have ideas about how to fix that. Advantage: Big Oil.
LOSERS: The Tory War Room: Ezra Levant opposes bilingualism, hates Muslims, and wants Quebec to separate. Why is he still in the Tory war room? Why does he speak for the Conservatives on TV? I have heard from senior Tories asking me that, too – they despise Levant, and are certain he will damage their party (once again) in this campaign. More here.
WINNER: The handcuff line was funny, but I still think Layton wins with the “sweater has come off” joke. Not funny, but very effective, was Dion’s observation that he was saving Canada when his main opponent was building “firewalls.” True, that.

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