If you believe the latest poll, the Harper Tories are in a virtual dead heat with the Dion Liberals.
For many people, (especially the PMO braintrust) this state of affairs must be something of a puzzle.
After all, according to the plan, the Conservatives -- basking in the glory of their recent "mini-budget" with its promised tax cuts -- should be riding a wave of popularity right now.
So what's wrong?
Well, media pundits will likely pin the blame on the current Mulroney-Schreiber scandal.
And maybe that's the answer. Or maybe it's more serious.
For instance, it's more likely Prime Minister Harper's problems stem from the fact that he has broken the first rule of politics: Be real.
Harper is pretending to be something he isn't: a Liberal.
That's what voters are picking up on. They sense deception. They think Harper must be hiding something: the dreaded "hidden agenda".
Let's face it, people fear the unknown.
And of course, the Liberals and the media are are doing everything they can to stoke up those fears, conjuring up frightful images of what the "hidden agenda" entails.
What scares voters, in other words, isn't a conservative agenda, it's the caricature of a conservative agenda, a caricature the left has created.
How can Harper turn things around?
Easy. He just has to be true to his roots. He has to proudly proclaim that he is in fact a conservative. Then he has to define what a conservative agenda would mean for Canada.
Would everybody in the country applaud?
But at least everybody in the country would know where he stood.