But let's not forget about Harper and his pre-emptive ways. If there's one thing Steve absolutely believes in, it's wasting no time, no opportunity to undermine his adversaries. It keeps them off balance and, over time, saps the public confidence in them. Steve looks for vulnerabilities to exploit. The question then becomes how Steve will exploit weaknesses he sees in Mulcair, how soon he will go after the NDP leader and how hard he'll hit.
The obvious tactic would be to sow dissension in the NDP ranks. That could be as simple as forcing Mulcair to take a position on socialism. It would be difficult to conceive of the Canadian voting public choosing an avowed socialist today.
If there was one thing that Harper, with the able assistance of Ignatieff and Layton, achieved it was to shift Canada's political centre well to the right. And what's the point of doing that if you can't take advantage of it at a timely moment?
Mulcair, by most indications, seems intent on steering a centrist course, the very peril Ed Broadbent warned of. He surely knows that old school socialism does not lead to power today more than ever. Mulcair doesn't want a deal with the Liberals, he wants to become leader of Canada's next liberal government. Can he do that without alienating his party's "true believers", the harcore that has always sustained the NDP in good times and bad?
This poses a real problem for Mulcair all on its own. With Harper bringing his own match to Mulcair's gasoline there's no telling what could happen.
Remember this also. Mulcair's NDP will not form the government of Canada with only their own party supporters. They're going to need to draw a lot of Liberal and undecided voters to their side. It's said that Mulcair has a quick temper, something that Harper knows how to exploit. It's also the very sort of character flaw that could make the NDP much less attractive to those new voters they need.
This may not be the time for a headstrong NDP leader. With his decisive pronouncement rejecting any deal with the Liberals, Mulcair has revealed an iron fistedness he has not yet earned the support to wield. It's this sort of thing that perfectly suits Harper's play book.
I don't think Harper is going to waste any time going after Mulcair to sow dissension in the NDP ranks and suspicion among the general voting public. Let's nope the NDP leader can handle it. If not he may just give the Liberals the break they so badly need.