I originally thought that the Liberals started in on the Conservatives' promise costing because they wanted to create a sense of fear, but then they shifted from 'he's going to raise taxes' to 'they'll create a deficit'. Both create fear, but if that had been the main intention they likely would have waited until after the debates so Harper wouldn't have so public a forum during which to answer.
No, they did this in order to draw the rest of the Tory platform out early. They figured Harper would react to their criticism by revealing the whole Conservative programme immediately, just to prove them wrong. Had he responded as they predicted, it would have prevented the daily announcements which bring the Tories positive attention and stop Liberal negativity from gaining traction.
Tonight will be interesting. Martin's handlers have managed to give him a couple of days to breathe with their attacks on the Conservative financial plans, so rather than being stuttery and sputtering the way he usually is when he's put in a corner, Paul Martin will be aggressive and on the offensive.
The format lends itself to being another debate about policy and ideas, which is to the Conservatives benefit. Martin can huff and puff and pantomime his vision all he wants, but the lack of substance will be apparent. He will steer everything away from what he plans to do, to what Harper would do, because the Liberals thought they could win without a platform.
The contrast between the Conservatives and the Liberals is stark. A visit to their websites shows them both, talking more about the Conservatives' platform than the Liberals'. As you look around, you find the Conservatives have all their issues laid out as they've been announced, complete with backgrounders, details and rationale. On the Liberal site you find vague promises with no elaboration, no processes set out to explain their exact intentions. As usual, they've relied on platitude over substance and fail to show any planning.
The best example of this is the Liberals' 'sure thing' -- the universal child care 'plan'. Where Harper recently detailed the Conservative plan to create 125,000 spaces, and the same information can be found on the Conservative web pages, tonight Martin will boast that the Liberals will create 250,000 daycare spaces. All anyone will have to do is ask him how they'll do that, and he'll be at a loss. There is no plan. There is no vision. That's why you won't find the Liberals talking about the Liberals on their website and in their ads.