I'm voting for Harper on Saturday. 
Posted to Jim Elve's Group Election Blog.

I think I gave all the candidates a chance to win me over. I listened to Stronach's and Clement's kickoff speeches, read most of their press releases, and watched both of the official debates.

For me, Harper is the best candidate to lead and grow the Conservative Party. The following two opinions pretty much reflect my thoughts:

Paul Wells:

"Only Harper knows the ropes. He first worked in Parliament almost 20 years ago. He helped found the Reform party. He first won a seat in 1993. He's been back in Parliament for two years, healing the wounds of the Day years, enticing a reluctant Tory leader into building a new party before anyone would have thought it possible. If you haven't been paying attention, you'll be surprised how strong a debater he is. He's physically imposing. His French is far stronger than Clement's. He's funny and poised enough to improvise devastating comebacks.

But there is something far more important for the battle ahead. Harper is unapologetic. Stronach gets squeamish when you ask her about Magna. Clement lost his seat in the last Ontario election. Either would spend too much time on the defensive in a federal campaign.

Harper? Try as you might to make him feel embarrassed about the Reform and Canadian Alliance baggage he brings to the new party, he refuses to play. There is nothing about his past or his policies that he's ashamed to defend. When Martin tries to suggest the new party is an Alliance takeover of the Progressive Conservatives, many Western voters will smell a veiled insult against them.

This is the best advertisement for Harper: only he offers more than a defensive game. He offers Conservatives the chance to re-fight the 2000 election, which matched a confident leader against a chronic waffler, except this time the roles would be reversed. Paul Martin will eat an unprepared debate opponent alive. Just ask John Manley. But his Achilles heel is a surprising lack of confidence. The only candidate in this race who can rattle him is Harper.

Charles Adler:

"IN THIS country, Paul Martin is itching for an election. Nobody is going to convince him to wait for the fall. Pencil in the Victoria Day weekend as the final weekend of campaigning.

The argument for waiting and waiting and waiting is that the public needs more information on the sponsorship scandal. The argument for going to the polls early is to deny Stephen Harper the opportunity to impress Canadians as a prime minister in waiting, moderate in his temperament, middle of the road in his politics, not the extremist yahoo that Liberals would like to paint him as.

Give Stephen Harper six months with a united Conservative caucus representing every part of the country, and gone is the old Liberal spin on Stephen Harper.

I really wanted Stronach to win me over in this race - I gave her many opportunities to do it but she's come up short. I really hope she wins her Newmarket-Aurora riding so we can see what she is capable of in politics.

Clement never had me - maybe it started with the unbelievably shitty website he had when he kicked off his campaign - but I did enjoy his wit and quickness during the debates - skills that hopefully the Conservative party can use in the House of Commons.

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