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Metro column: Campaigns all about timing

By DJ Kelly December 17, 2010

The following column was published in both Metro Calgary and Metro Edmonton.

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The calendar hasn’t even flipped to 2011 yet but the provincial parties are already busy lining up their election plans for an anticipated spring 2012 vote. And the tried-and-true methods for engineering election wins will again be unfurled.

Sure those strategies have worked for many years, but 2012 is going to be an election unlike any Alberta has seen before. Not only do we have a real choice for the first time in 20 years, but how you campaign has changed a lot in the last 40 years. Heck, it’s changed in the last two years.

The much-ballyhooed, game-changing Barack Obama electoral campaign of 2008 could not be replicated in 2012.

It’s about the right campaign at the right time. It’s something the Progressive Conservatives should be very concerned about.

Over the past 40 years they’ve gotten very, very good at campaigning. So good, in fact, it might be impossible to convince them that the strategies they’ve used in the past will be nowhere near enough to win the next election in familiar landslide fashion. It can even be argued that if the Wildrose Alliance figures out the new realities of 2012 first, the PCs probably won’t even win.

So what will be different come the drop of the writ this time? With each passing month, the electorate becomes more informed and more connected.

Whether it be Facebook and Twitter, or a TV that lets you surf the Internet —or even just a younger generation coming of age weaned on Wikipedia-style accessibility to information — this is a different public than the parties pandered to last time around. Whoever uses these new tools to allow voters to share information the best will have an upper hand.

These tools also point towards an election being fought on a local level, similar to the way it was done a century ago. With bloggers playing an increasingly important role in provincial political punditry and citizens with the ability to share who they’re voting for and why, the story doesn’t always need to be about the leader.

It can, and often will, be about the local candidate. Expect to see summer barbecues, community events and neighbourhood councils be the real battleground in 2012 as candidates get a lot more direct comparative time.

This should theoretically be a boon for the PCs, who have a relatively weak leader, and bad news for the Wildrose Alliance, who in Danielle Smith have a strong one.

But the Wildrose should not be blinded by tradition and may be much better poised to take advantage of these new realities.

The premier’s chair awaits the party who does just that.

Edmonton original: http://www.metronews.ca/edmonton/local/article/722440–campaigns-all-about-timing

Calgary original: http://www.metronews.ca/calgary/local/article/722440–campaigns-all-about-timing