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Warren Kinsella - RISE AGAINST

"...[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


I have three tickets for their sold-out show tomorrow night at the Sound Academy. I will give them to any faithful wk.com reader who promises to get me and my daughter Rise Against tees.

Indicate interest in comments!

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Has it been that long?

Man, am I ever old. McGuinty, meanwhile, does not age. Winning does that, I think.

Here's a shot of the day after. That's one of our sons in the lower left - the one non-verbally expressing his opinion about what his Dad does for a living.

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From Jago, currently doing yeoman work on nutbars within the Green Party:

1. Western Standard Shotgun Blog | Google PR6 | Alexa 143475 | SR 6|
2. Small Dead Animals | Google PR6 | Alexa 155608 | SR 2 |
3. Ghost of a Flea | Google PR6 | Alexa 186545 | SR 8 |
4. Matthew Good| Google PR6 | Alexa 202928 | SR 3 |
5. Daimnation! | Google PR6 | Alexa 417858 | SR 5 |
6. Five Feet of Fury | Google PR5 | Alexa: 170082 | SR 7 |
7. Warren Kinsella | Google PR5 | Alexa: 193163 | SR 16 |
8. A Dime a Dozen etc… | Google PR5 | Alexa: 278832 | SR 14 |
9. Bow. James Bow | Google PR5 | Alexa: 332255 | SR 10 |
10. Garth Turner | Google PR5 | Alexa: 338235 | SR 11 |

I find this interesting because - as in all previous years - right-wingers dominate as web log producers and consumers.

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...and spotted by Norman, naturally:

"...54 per cent say Gilles Duceppe’s performance was excellent, six percent more than for Stéphane Dion, at 48 per cent. Jack Layton is at 38 per cent, while Elizabeth May is at 23 per cent.

Stephen Harper brings up the rear, with only 18 per cent giving him a positive rating.

29 per cent say their opinion of the Conservatives declined, while 45 per cent say their opinion of the Liberals improved..."

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Ipsos says Stéphane Dion was the clear winner. (N.B: They also polled francophones outside Quebec.)

So, the next important bit of data we need: how many voters were watching?


Post-Debate Summary:
French-Language Leaders’ Debate
French Leaders Debate Audience Says Dion Clear Winner
1 in 5 (20%) Viewers Say They Changed Their Mind

Toronto, ON -- The results of a near instantaneous Ipsos Reid/CanWest News Service survey of French-speaking Canadian voters who watched Wednesday night’s French-language leaders’ debate has revealed:

The Winner… Liberal Leader Stephane Dion emerges as the clear winner of Wednesday’s debate with 40% of Canadian voters who viewed the French language debate saying he won, compared with 24% who feel that Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe won, 16% who feel that Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper emerged victorious, 11% who feel that NDP Leader Jack Layton won, and just 1% who feel Green Leader Elizabeth May won.

Being Prime Ministerial… Nearly four in ten (36%) found Stephane Dion (up 21 points) to be the leader who sounds and acts most like a Prime Minister, placing him ahead of Prime Minister Harper (31%, down 14 points). Gilles Duceppe was next (17%, up 4 points), followed by Jack Layton (12%, down 4 points) and Elizabeth May (1%, unchanged).

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So who won? Who lost?

First, a few of Warren’s political TV criteria. Number one: VISUALS. When I watch a political commercial, or a political debate, I do so – for all or part of it – with the sound off. That’s because TV is a visual medium. As I said to a fellow on Newsworld Wednesday afternoon, it’s 70 per cent how you look, 20 per cent how you say it, and 10 per cent what you say. That’s sad, but it’s the way it is.

Two, HOAG. That is, the “Hell Of A Guy” or “Hell Of A Gal” test. Being a Hell Of A Guy won Jean Chrétien every election he faced; it helped Stephen Harper in 2006, when he aggressively adopted the Tim Horton’s Everyman persona. Not being a HOAG sunk John Kerry and Al Gore when pitted against George W. Bush – because you could picture yourself having a beer with Dubya. The other two you could picture with a wine spritzer in one hand, an iPhone in the other – and you could hear them lecturing you about the Arctic ice shelf. Also sad, but true.

Three, LEADERSHIP – and not in the way the Tories have sought to define it in Campaign 2008. In my view, TV “leadership” is strength, calm and the Royal Jelly stuff. Who looks, acts and speaks most like a Prime Minister?

Finally, MINUTES. As Dick Morris has pointed out, “winning” a debate is pretty hard to do. “Defining moments” are mostly a crock, a false media construct. You “win” a debate by managing the dialogue. So, if you are a conservative, voters tend to think you have more latent credibility on issues like taxes, law and order and government waste. If you are liberal, you come to the party with more heft on things like health care and protecting social programs. So, under my minutes test, you can determine who wins with your watch. If Stephen Harper was forced to discuss health care for most of the debate – no matter how terrific he looks or sounds – then he will lose. And if Stéphane Dion is obliged to debate crime – even when overall crime rates are way down – he, too, cannot win. When the other guy’s issues dominate the show, you will always lose.

So, using those criteria, who won? Who lost?

VISUALS: Gilles Duceppe was the winner (so, too, regimental ties – Duceppe, Layton and Harper all wore one). Since Chrétien left, the French debate has been his home turf, and he defends it without breaking into a sweat. Forcing the leaders to sit at a round table took away a natural Harper advantage – on TV, you hardly ever see Prime Ministers sitting down. In the French debate, Harper looked uncomfortable. Dion, meanwhile, looked somewhat frail, and not a few of us wanted to reach up and fix that errant lock of hair. Layton looked good; May was fine, in an environment that is very, very intimidating. Her French was pretty good, too. [Post script: I was amazed the French-language media folks permitted that big Maple Leaf in the middle of the debate table. Amazed.]

HOAG: Jack Layton, because he’s been working hard at being a HOAG throughout this election campaign, and it’s paying off. The NDP guy made certain his language and approach were accessible and understandable; most of the time, he was the guy you could picture pulling over to help you change a flat tire. Harper? He’d drive by, worried about a roadside carjacking by a Young Offender. Dion? He’d be paying too much attention to the speed limit, computing his carbon footprint, and he’d totally miss you and your predicament. Duceppe? He’d screech to a stop, steal your car and your gal, and speed away. And you’d laugh.

LEADERSHIP: A tie: Stephen Harper was the winner, mostly due to the economic segment that kicked off the debate; but Dion was a winner, too, particularly when he lectured Harper about respect, and when he handled the question from the Dawson College professor about assault rifles. Sitting down, Harper’s smile seemed forced and his posture a bit hunched, but he still looked like a Prime Minister (or, more preferable to many Tories, a President). Dion, too, kept his temper in check, and avoided the temptation to sound too professorial. During the listeriosis discussion, 40 minutes in, there was a lot of overtalk and finger-pointing, but Harper and Dion were cool in a medium that only rewards those who keep their cool. Throughout the environmental segment that came halfway through, where all of the Opposition leaders sought to mug Harper, he looked completely unfazed. Foolishly, May called Harper a “liar,” a “joke,” and a fraud artist over Kyoto; whether you think those epithets are accurate or not, May looked less like a leader, Harper more – because he didn’t erupt. Dion was excellent in briefly discussing his Green Shift, but that wasn’t necessarily an achievement; on the economy, he hit Harper with a zinger early on: “Economic risk? You are the risk.” But, truth told, he made me ill when he said he was a citizen of the Quebec “nation.” I suspect I’m not alone in that. And, I must say, Dion didn't talk all that much. Maybe that was a good thing, but he seemed AWOL for some of the show.

MINUTES: Due to this week’s events in Washington and in the markets, most of the debate was pre-ordained to be about the economy – and properly so. Being an economist who also is a Prime Minister, he was most at ease in discussing our troubled economic times. On the difficult question about gun control – where many expected him to sound callous and cold – Harper turned the tables, and spoke passionately about victims being more important than criminals. He was awful on the cultural cuts, even though he knew he would be under assault. And, when he pandered to Québec nationalists, the Tory leader infuriated me, but all of them pandered to Québec nationalists. But, truth be told, it was Gilles Duceppe who was – not surprisingly – most fluent (literally) in everything that was up for discussion. He seemed conversant in every issue; he didn’t step back. As a result, he didn’t lose out in the crucial “minutes” calculation.

OVERALL WINNER: Gilles Duceppe. Agree with him or not, it was his sandbox. He set the rules. He won.

GRATUITOUS COMMENTARY ON THE SHOW: The moderator, Stephen Bureau, was excellent - firm but fair. The format – particularly the unexpected stuff at the one hour mark, in which the leaders got to say what they liked about each other, and in which you half-expected them to get up and hug each other for closure – was fun, if weird. The questions from “citizens” (with the exception of the woman from Dawson College) were unremarkable, and could have just as easily be asked by journalists. No plagiarism jokes, either: why not, darn it? (And, on my format: no live-blogging for me, tonight or tomorrow night. It's too hard to read. Check out this laundry-list journalism to see what I mean.)

You're welcome.

Now, we get ready for the really important debate, the one that will be watched by millions of Canadians: Biden and Palin!

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Well, at least it wasn't related to LSD smuggled in Bibles!

From Graham P. Murray's indispensable Inside Queen's Park:



Cheri DiNovo has fired her three Queen’s Park staffers. The Parkdale-High Park MPP zapped them with late night e-mails – sent out on Labour Day, of all days of the year. The next morning she tried to un-fire them, blaming her managerial zeal on drinking too heavily and being affronted when none of them showed at her community BBQ. This was actually the second time that all of DiNovo’s staffers had been canned electronically, and rather than go back to await a third
deletion the Parkdale Three have grieved their firings under the very strong caucus collective agreement.

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It's true. We were booked! We were ready to go! And then our get-together got cancelled this morning.

I'll debate anyone, pretty much, unless (a) they are a Nazi and/or (b) they offered House of Commons property in exchange for a political donation.

Anyway: I'm doing a post-op on the debates on Friday ayem on Canada Ayem. And, next week, live punditizing on Newsworld for the second presidential debate.

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WINNERS: Bob Rae and the Liberal War Room. This one’s easy: on a crowded news day – and at exactly the right moment, just before the televised leaders’ debates – Rae and some anonymous Liberal staffers seriously kicked Tory ass. Their plagiarism discovery was about more than plagiarism, of course, and as the Tories eventually realized to their horror – it made the case (with accompanying video, no less!) that the Harper administration lifts its foreign policy straight out of the Dubya playbook. And that is something that Canadians, of all stripes, do not like. At all. Huge win – biggest war room score of the campaign so far, I reckon.
LOSER: Not Owen Lippert! Sure, the Conservatives threw the Fraser Institute acolyte under the bus without a moments’ hesitation – where, along with Ryan Sparrow and a litany of creepy and kooky Conservative candidates, he will find lots of company. The Tories want the disaster – which has attracted international attention – to end with the ritual sacrifice of poor Owen (who I have met, and who didn’t seem like a bad guy, even if he was a dirty rotten conservative). So, for the Grits, the challenge is to ensure that the Tories aren’t permitted to change the channel. The challenge is to keep making the point, in the leaders’ debates and elsewhere, that – if these guys win a majority – going to war in a place like Iraq isn’t just possible, it’s a given.
LOSERS: The Tories, the Grits – so says Peter Donolo. Still no Tory majority, and more bad polls for the Liberal Party. Jack and Gilles go up the Hill, carrying a pail of good numbers, smiling their asses off, etc.
WINNER: Of the debates to come…who knows? The PM just needs to stand there and look Prime Ministerial, periodically swatting at the terriers snapping around his ankles. The others? Elizabeth May needs to exercise restraint (she’s one of those TV people who thinks volume is preferable to debate); Gilles Duceppe needs dominate the French contest, and have fun in the square-head one (he’s actually quite likeable in person, but this rarely comes across on the box); Jack Layton needs to continue to build on the momentum he’s achieved in this campaign – and resist the temptation to come off like a publicity-seeking, far-left municipal councilor (which is what he used to be, by the way). And Stéphane Dion? For him, the stakes are very, very high. The Liberal leader needs to keep his cool, but somehow persuade Harper to lose his. In either Official Language, that is a tall order. No wonder Liberals are so nervous.
LOSER: The National Post. Once again living up to its reputation as a Conservative Party election pamphlet, the Postules smirk that Ontario’s Finance Minister gave the federal Tories a “gift.” Um, no. He merely said what was the long-standing position of the Ontario Liberal government, and its Premier. What a bunch.
WHAT? “I don’t get paid to blog.” Sorry, I just fell out of my chair. Carry on.
LOSERS: Certain media people. These snotty, smarmy news stories about Stephen Harper’s relationship with his children aren’t just useless – they’re also rotten. In what universe, in what context, is the send-off a politician gives to his or her child in any way news? This kind of stuff goes way over the line, in my view. It isn't news.

Why is this news?

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...sounds like the title of an alt-country tune.

Mertl, by the way, is one of the best scribes around. A real pro. (And I think I spelled "testosterone" right, and not the CP headline-writer.)


Testostorone, caffeine fuel election campaign war rooms, say vets (FedElxn-War-Rooms)
Source: The Canadian Press
Sep 30, 2008 18:14

By Steve Mertl


VANCOUVER - The war rooms of the major parties in the election campaign run on a volatile mixture of testosterone, caffeine and sleep deprivation, says a former war-room vet.

They've inundated reporters with dozens of emails daily whose tone and subject matter sometimes descend to trivial, even juvenile levels.

They've also been stunningly effective, helping take out candidates from all the major parties by mining gaffes long past and embarrassing back-stories.

Soldiers in the Liberal war room notched a victory Tuesday when a Conservative speech writer fell on his sword, admitting parts of a 2003 speech on the Iraq war he wrote for then-Opposition leader Stephen Harper were lifted wholesale from one given by Australia's prime minister.

The plagiarism was unearthed by Liberal researchers toiling in the party's campaign headquarters.

Work like that gets grudging admiration, even from an old warrior on the other side of the battle line.

While decrying theirs as a weak campaign effortTom Flanagan, who presided over the Tory war room the previous two elections, saidthe Liberals still excel at putting research to work.

``Their ability to conduct and use opposition research, I think, is still as good as ever and that's probably helped save them to some extent,'' said Flanagan, once a key Harper adviser.

But whether the coup influences the ultimate outcome of the election in two weeks is another question.

``What a war room is supposed to be doing is incrementally affecting the coverage of their candidate and the other side's candidate over a period of time,'' said Warren Kinsella, who ran the Liberal war room for Jean Chretien's successful campaigns and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's re-election bid last year.

``What I always tell the young people I work with is there is no silver bullet. There's no scandal, there's no single thing that we can do that will win this election.''

The tit-for-tat warfare has been largely between the Liberals and Conservatives.

``We don't let any attacks go unanswered,'' said NDP communications director Brad Lavigne. ``When we get hit by the Liberal party's war room, we respond in kind but it's fairly rare that we'll initiate something against them because they're not our target, Mr. Harper is.''

The major parties' war rooms are set up pretty much the same _ teams of people monitoring banks of TVs and scanning newspapers, researchers trolling the web and writers generating news releases that land in reporters' mail boxes every few minutes.

They're staffed largely by men, though Jenni Byrne, a staffer from the prime minister's office, helps supervise the Tory war room.

That may account for the frat-boy mentality behind the Tories' pooping puffin web page that marked the first week of their campaign.

``It really does get a bit too much on the testosterone scale,'' said Kinsella. ``I do find when you have some smart women in there saying, `Hey, can we cool it and think about this,' it really has a levelling effect.''

Across their ideological gulf, Flanagan and Kinsella agree war rooms can get caught up in the daily firefight.

``There's a risk that you get caught up in the warlike atmosphere of the war room,'' said Flanagan. ``We tried to combat that last time ... I had the responsibility to sign off on everything that went out. I was sort of the final checkpoint.''

The famously ruthless Kinsella recalled instances where the war rooms stopped battling for voters' hearts and minds through the media and just started Blackberrying each other.

Sometimes the exchanges seem just silly. After the Conservatives issued a news release last week noting the Liberal election platform had the word Quebec only four times, the Grits dug out the Tories' 2006 platform to point out Quebec showed up there only four times.

The release was pre-emptive, said Liberal campaign co-chair Mark Marissen, to avoid negative reporting of the Tory attack.

But Kinsella said war-room operatives often feel the need to be doing something.

``They're like crack addicts,'' he said. ``If they've gone an hour without something on Canada NewsWire they start to get fidgety.''

The insiders admit the growth of web-based reporting and the increasing numbers of independent bloggers has spurred the rising volume of war-room material and speeded up response time.

Journalists ignore much of the daily deluge.

``If I were a reporter I'd probably discard about 90 per cent of what the war rooms put out,'' said Flanagan. ``We were releasing I suppose 15 or 20 products a day (in 2006).

``A lot of it turned out to be trivial or not picked up. But that leaves 10 per cent or so, just as a guess, that actually do become influential.''

Often it's not aimed at traditional media. Bloggers have become not only sources of information but also outlets for unfiltered party material.

But while the method and speed of delivery has changed, the tactic of dishing dirt on opponents is as old as electoral politics, notes Paul Knox, chairman of Ryerson University's School of Journalism.

The media have to learn to triage the flow and rigorously investigate claims.

``I don't see it stopping because somewhere in that haystack there's going to be a needle that both is verifiable when you check it out and relevant to the campaign,'' he said.


© 2008 The Canadian Press

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Exclusive, live footage of the speechwriters hard at work in the highest office in the land! Never before seen anywhere!

(Well, unless it was plagiarised from somewhere, that is.)

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...he or she gets fired. So what happens when it's a Prime Minister?

What a huge gaffe. As a former Chrétien speechwriter, I can assure you: if one of us had done likewise, our ass would be grass.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

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WINNER: Michael Ignatieff. Ignatieff’s speech yesterday morning to the Economic Club of Canada was significant – because it was good, because it was delivered with aplomb, but mainly because it almost anticipated the chaos that beset the markets a few hours later. Ignatieff asked the simple, but most obvious question: where is the Harper government’s plan for what almost certainly lies ahead? I encourage everyone to read the speech, supra – it is the best critique of current Conservative fiscal policy anyone has seen in this campaign. (And you can tell it worked by the number of Notional Pest lickspittles who were called into service to attempt to attack it, immediately afterwards.)
WINNERS: The Bloc. Assorted columnists – like the Muldoon fart-catcher-in-chief - sought to curry Tory favour by prematurely pronouncing the Bloc dead. They ain’t. (Neither are the Grits, if Léger is to be believed, which it usually should be.) If Stephen Harper is denied a majority, you can say merci to Gilles Duceppe.
LOSER: Jack Layton – for aping John McCain’s stunt. It didn’t work for McCain, Jack, and it won’t work for you, either. If you are worried about the leaders’ debates, don’t go. Ms. May will be delighted if you don’t.
WINNER: Gail Asper. All of us owe a debt to Gail Asper – and her deceased Dad, Izzy – for tirelessly advocating for a Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg. Said she: “If we are going to be the heart of the continent, then we have to have a heart . . . We have to eliminate poverty, violence, racial slurs and other crimes.” You don’t do that by calling neo-Nazis “martyrs,” either. So where are the political parties on human rights in this election campaign?
LOSERS: Gomery and his ilk. The “ilk,” in this instance, are nameless, gutless Conservatives, who are blaming the decision to appeal a scathing judgment excoriating the publicity-seeking former judge on a “committee” at the Justice department (why don’t you call them “the mechanics,” a la Paul Martin, boys?). Never mind that the appeal, destined to fail, drags the dying Jean Pelletier through many more months (and potentially years) of torment. These people make me sick.
LOSERS: “Unite the Left” forecasters. Listen, pundits and prognosticators: the “right” was united, ultimately, because (a) Stephen Harper pulled it off and (b) the two halves were originally one party. In this case, the NDP and the Liberals have never been anything but sworn enemies – and, moreover, I’ve never met a Dipper who didn’t viscerally despise Grits. Never shall the twain meet. But that won’t stop the commentariat from felling entire forests to peddle this bullshit in post-election editorial columns, no sir!
LOSERS: Media-obsessed conspiracy theorists. You’ll see this everywhere you look in the blogosweird: Conservatives who write, endlessly, that the CBC/Toronto Star/Jane Taber are a Satanic, black helicopter-driving trilateralist coven, disseminating subliminal calls for underage sex ed, fluoridation, promiscuity, abortion on demand and the Liberal Party – and Liberals who claim, over and over, that CTV/National Post/Mike Duffy are a covert band of democracy-hating, far-right Illuminati, bent on installing Myron Thompson as the head of a perpetual monarchy (well, that’s true in respect of the Post, now that I think about it). When they don’t like what you write, you are immediately evil. In this campaign, I have been condemned in equal measures by addled Conservatives and Hobbit-like Liberals – so I must be doing something right. Right?
LOSER: This, truly, has to rank as one of the worst photos of the campaign. What was Bob Rae thinking? Poor old Stéphane Dion is doing all he can to earn some respect, and Rae pulls a stunt like this? If he’d tried it on my former boss, he’d be experiencing a Shawinigan Handshake he wouldn’t forget.

Et tu, Robert?

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A smart guy from Global TV (there are many) wanted to interview me today, but with a twist: he wanted to do it as a Warren At Arms Length thing. He'd ask the questions, I'd look into my little Flip camera, and then we'd upload the results to YouTube - so that he could extract clips for the news. Cool!

So here it is: a YouTube of an interview. You will see me parry a question about my good friend Andrew Telegdi, try and be fair for once in my life, and look tired. I look bagged because I was up very late, talking to a very smart ten-year-old about the nature of life and death. He will be Prime Minister, one day, this ten-year-old. He is amazing.

Anyway. Here's the interview. Comment away, as usual, but not about the Michelins under my eyes, okay?

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The good news: the Republicans will be wearing this for years to come, and have likely handed Obama the keys to the White House.

The really, really, really bad news: all of us are going to feel this, and not in a good way, either. Globalization means just that. Get ready for pain on a global scale.

(Oh, and any Canadian campaign stuff that happened today just got relegated to the back pages and the end of the newscast. Only Ignatieff - see the final couple pages of his speech, below - seemed to anticipate this.)

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