Stephane Dion's fundamental flaw was his inability to connect with average Canadians. People didn't "relate" to him and that left Dion easy meat for underhanded smear campaigns by Harper.
Now it's Iggy's turn to see whether he can navigate the shoals of public acceptance to get through to rank and file Canadians with a message they'll understand, one they'll be willing to support in an election campaign.
Harper, desperate to rip a page out of someone's book, has gone into Obomaton mode to propose middle class tax cuts in his stimulus package budget. Of course Obama is trying to even the keel of the upper-class tax cuts that Bush inflicted on the United States, something we were spared.
Ignatieff is, quite rightly, opposed to tax cuts as a recession-fighting strategy. Tax cuts don't do much for the economy unless people will spend the money saved, inject it into the economy. In times of uncertainty people understandably horde money, they don't spend it. Ask retailers, they know.
The tax cuts proposed by Harper won't do much except deepen the deficit. The tax revenue the feds will give up won't go back into the economy, won't free up credit, won't contribute to employment. It'll sit under someone's mattress where it does no one any good.
So Ignatieff is right in drawing the line by telling Harper the Libs will vote against the budget if it incorporates the suggested tax cuts. But, should that heady moment actually arrive, Iggy will then face the greater challenge - to explain it to the Canadian people well enough to win their trust and their support. Can he do that? I'm not so sure.
To me, Ignatieff comes across as a bit of a stiff. He's like cardboard. Last week I listened to a lengthy Toronto news interview with Iggy - without the video. Damn if his speech and delivery didn't sound just like Grampa McCain! He sounds like an old man, seriously deficient in vitality and spark.
For Iggy the good news is that he's up against a consummate stiff. Harper conjures up all the excitement of a sweat sock. So it's not like Iggy is up against a powerhouse of charisma. He's not. Still it will be more than slightly interesting to see if Ignatieff can lift himself out of geezer mode, which he might just have to do if he's to win the support of the Canadian public.