Or the lack thereof.
Erin O’Toole is a good public speaker, and has relatively strong communication skills.
However, he is certainly not a charismatic and telegenic politician.
And this unfortunately follows in a recent trend of conservative leaders lacking charisma.
This was something that was easier to get around until recently, but social media, and the fragmentation of attention has rendered charisma a near necessity for a political party to win.
Yet, the Conservatives – at least at the top of the party – still seem to think that a few policy tweaks will change everything.
That explains O’Toole’s shift from ‘true blue’ to ‘moderate centrist,’ as the CPC brass seems to believe that all they need to do is reorient themselves on the political spectrum in order to defeat the Liberals.
Of course, the polls show that isn’t working, as it appears the CPC base is being demoralized, O’Toole’s negatives are going up, and no new voters are being gained.
In fact, we just saw NDP leader Jagmeet Singh rule out ever supporting a Conservative minority government, showing that O’Toole’s shift isn’t convincing people and isn’t altering the perception of the party.
The real problem the Conservatives have isn’t policy at all, it’s with the lack of charisma the party exhibits.
Justin Trudeau is a polarizing politician, but he has the ability to command attention from the media and the public, and speaks in emotional (often completely fact-free and manipulative ways) messages that work well in 10-second soundbites.
He is also more telegenic than most politicians.
And whether we like it or not, that helps him succeed and get away with scandals that would have ended the careers of other leaders.
And, some of the most successful conservative politicians in North America – particularly Ronald Reagan – had a background in show business, not politics, understanding the importance of looking good on camera and understanding the power of emotional communication.
Now, it’s too late for the Conservatives at this point to have a charismatic leader, but they do have charismatic MPs like Michelle Rempel-Garner, Pierre Poilievre, Raquel Dancho, and Michael Chong.
Instead of focusing their ads on ‘getting people to know Erin O’Toole,’ they should be running ads with those MPs standing and talking alongside O’Toole, rather than trying to create a cult of personality around a politician without the charisma to sustain it.
They should also be taking strong conservatives stances, delivered by their most telegenic and charismatic MPs, rather than trying to deliver bland messages by a bland leader.
Unfortunately, the party currently seems to be going in a different direction, as was seen by the demotion of Pierre Poilievre. Rather than truly make the most out of his ability to generate a large audience and garner the attention of the media, the party brass seems to want to reduce his reach, which is a big mistake.
In the absence of a charismatic leader, the Conservatives must promote a charismatic team.