Mr. Murphy's analysis assumes, like so many partisan Conservatives, that the only thing that stands between Harper and a majority government is his occasional strategic error which trouble many voters because they think that it speaks of some hidden agenda. Murphy, like many Conservatives, think that Harper has learned a lot during his tenure as PM and that he has modified his view significantly and that if he just refrained from making these occasional silly errors in judgment he would be cruising to a majority.
The problems with such an analysis are multi-fold. The primary problem with such an analysis is that it over-looks the painfully numerous attacks that Harper and his government have perpetrated against the principles of democracy. Now, whether these attacks demonstrate an inherent 'nasty' side to Harper's personality is a debatable point, but I think it is clear that a very large majority of Canadians object strongly to the ideological import of these attacks. Wearing sweater vests will not make up for this because it is not really a question of 'image' it is a question of ideology.
In other words, Murphy and his ilk, imagine that people are frightened of Harper's "hidden" agenda when in fact it is the more obvious agenda that he has been openly pursuing that is the problem for many people. The so-called tactical mistakes that Harper has made like the recent prorogation of parliament do indeed turn off a number of people who might otherwise vote for the Conservatives because they make people feel as though Harper is mean and power-hungry and, in this case, involved in a real coverup. But for many people it has helped to remind them of Harper's basic ideological offensiveness. Rex Murphy writes almost as though no one really objects to what is a troublingly Americanization of politics in Canada and an ideological agenda that seems to be undermining the parliamentary tradition at the most basic level. There is no doubt that Harper's nasty ultra-partisan streak makes selling this ideology that much more difficult.. But at the heart of this matter is a basic ideological struggle between Harper's Machiavellian, centralizing, pro-big business, anti-democratic, in-humane capitalist agenda on the one hand, and those who oppose that agenda from various points of view on the other. Mr. Murphy, and many others, are unable to acknowledge this because, for one - you can never be totally straightforward with such an agenda but you have to sugar coat it with ideological double-speak, and for another - many of them don't even understand the ideological import of their own beliefs. They are fooled by their own propaganda and believe, for example, that Harper is really concerned about crime when the crime rate is slowly going down and the so-called 'tough on crime' agenda is just a blatant calculation to win votes of a population that is obsessed with crime because of a sensationalizing media.
All I can say is the fact that someone with Rex Murphy's simplistic and shallow analysis can be a major media spokesperson suggests that we are not that far away from the Sarah Palin world of politics.