Sandra Buckler, the communications impresario who led Stephen Harper into power but resigned before the election, is still sorely missed by the Conservative campaign.
Campaigns often fail by tripping over their own feet, without any help from opponents. See John Tory in the last provincial election, or Paul Martin in the 2004 federal campaign. Now it's Harper's turn. And behind it all is the absence of Buckler.
In the last election, Stephen Harper had an effective if simplistic five-plank platform, which he hammered into the electorate's collective heads for entirety of the lengthy, mid-winter campaign. Sandra Buckler got his message out during that campaign.
During his first two years, he kept a tight lid on anyone and everyone under the Conservative banner, and his nation-wide approval ratings soared. Sandra Buckler was perhaps his closest ally in that communications strategy.
But then, this campaign, almost all of a sudden, his communications team was accusing military families of partisanship and coding defecating puffins on the Conservative website. His candidates were blaming crime on immigrants during interviews to alt.weeklies and blogging strange opinions linking socialism, gun control and a nasty beheading.
Harper himself has stumbled along while trying to articulate his platform. His now-infamous attack on the "galas" backfired, as did his sweater vests. His take on economic uncertainty is widely considered a shortcoming, especially for an economist. His debate performance thus far has been underwhelming and he can't seem to get the publics' attention for even his platform.
Meanwhile, RCMP have been roughing up the press to no one's benefit - especially not Harper's.
One could argue this is long and predictable list of blunders began on the first week of the campaign, when Harper decided to call 7 am (or some other ungodly hour) press conferences in hopes to set the news agenda for the day. (Not coincidentally, this wasn't the case in the 2004 election.)
But the first domino to fall was the resignation of his much loathed by the press but ultimately exceptional communications chief.
This past summer, Buckler left her position after 28 months with thyroid cancer. Reports state she considered waiting till the election, but, to Harper's deficit, decided against it.
Should the Harperites lose seats come Oct. 14, the three opposition parties need only thank one woman.