The Globe and Mail's John Ibbitson says you have a 6-minute opening in your 1-on-1 with Harper, in which you have to "win the face-off."
Let's start with the acknowledgement that a staged "face-off" win will likely flop, because it will be seen for what it is: a set-up. The real challenge is less to win the face-off than to demonstrate your authenticity by being yourself, by not rising to the phoney bait that you know Harper will throw at you in the hope of throwing you off your demeanour. Your authenticity is also inside your person, where it always was, and always will be. It is Harper whose person and whose government leave the country gasping for real oxygen, in the sense that while he and Baird throw off a storm of bluster, there is very little substance to that bluster.
Right now the polls suggest that you are still down by some 10-12 points as a party behind Harper and his party, and while difficult to close that gap in a 120-minute debate, the erosion could easily be started.
The Auditor General today says the Harper gang misrepresented her report on the G-8 Conference; according to Greg Weston on CBC's Power and Politics with Evan Solomon, she is hopping mad at the Harper gang, again.
That 40% of the vote that seems stuck on Harper has to be left alone, but attracting people who might not be planning to vote is, perhaps, your only window of opportunity.
How to attract that 41% of people who did not vote in the last election...given the fact that only 59% of Canadians elegible to vote, made their way to the polls, is perhaps the real question. Concentrating on throwing small pieces of bait to small segments of the electorate, as Harper has done, in the hope that the vast majority will stay home, is the Conservative's way of angling for a majority.
Exploding his "divide and conquer" modus operandi, by demonstrating the Liberal approach effectively to include the dispossessed, the unemployed, the under-educated, the hungry and the sick, without slipping into the trap of the "nanny state" could help your party build a coalition strong enough and large enough to bring about a change in government, a change that Canada truly needs.
Even Mulroney, not one of my favourites, is luke warm on Harper, while effusive about both you and Layton.
A comparison of the corporate tax rates in other countries, to the 18% to are proposing, would demonstrate your party's competence in integrating Canada with other developed countries, and put some foundational support under your $8-billion "Family Pack" of proposals.
Some of us simply do not "like" Harper, and anything you can do to demonstrate that you are not only approachable but also likeable, not ordinary in the mediocre sense, but a "smart" authentic person who is comfortable in your own skin, would go a long way to increasing both interest in and appetite for you and your candidates.
The "debate book" is undoubtedly filled with much more "erudite" stuff than you will read here, but what do I know? I'm only the permanent outsider looking in the window of your office, from fifty years of watching this country, hoping that, without your strategizing for it, Harper stubbs his proverbial tongue on his excessive ego demonstrating his monstrous self-righteousness and the camera grabs the photo of the undressed emperor we know he is.
Good luck! We are all in this together, and we are all pulling for you! (with thanks to Red Green)