In all three Conservative leadership contests and the nearly seven years since Stephen Harper took his beating in the 2015 election, the prevailing formula for those trying to replace him has been the same: campaign to the right to win the leadership, then swing to the center in time for the general election.

Both Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole tried this approach, and brought them within a stone’s throw of forming a government. But Scheer couldn’t sell the pivot, and O’Toole pivoted so abruptly that he ended up losing the support of his “real” Popular Party backers.

For months now, political observers have been trying to figure out exactly when and how Pierre Poilievre will start making a similar move. Could he even handle that pivot back to the middle having embraced the “Freedom Convoy” and traded in conspiracy? theories about the World Economic Forum?

The answer, as it is now becoming very clear, is that he never intended to even try. Instead of trying to win over current liberal voters or red conservatives, his campaign is building a new kind of conservative coalition, one that unites the right with younger voters on the far left.

This is not as crazy as it sounds. as Éoin Higgins wrote in the atlantic last year, there was a significant anti-vaccine population on the political left, who might be drawn to the pro-freedom, anti-Poilievre message. “These anti-vaccine crooks are coalescing into a loose political group that points to COVID health measures and restrictions as indicative of government overreach and medical tyranny,” he wrote. “Also, unsurprisingly, they are falling down the rabbit holes of the far-right.”

Intentionally or not, Poilievre’s campaign is based on something called the horseshoe theory, which suggests that the left and right ends are not at opposite ends of a linear spectrum, but lean toward each other at their ends. . After two years of a pandemic, one that has weakened trust in government institutions and the experience of both the right and the left, it might be the perfect time to test that theory.

The most recent results from a regular Abacus Data survey backs this up. He showed an 11-point shift in support for the Conservative Party of Canada among 18-29 year old voters, with most of that shift coming at the expense of Jagmeet Singh’s NDP. While the party fell from 31 percent support in that demographic in January to just 21 percent in July, the CPC rose from 20 percent to 31 percent (support for the Liberals only fell one point to 29 percent). .

This could be statistical noise, that rare survey of outliers that comes up about once in 20. But it’s far more likely that Poilievre’s unrelenting messages about economic freedom and opportunity, and in particular his line of attack on home prices and the people supposedly responsible for them, are resonating with a generation that feels they can’t take a break.

Partial credit for this unexpected political realignment belongs to Singh, whose own willingness to trade on populist rhetoric appears to be failing. Like Poilievre, he has been talking a lot about inflation lately and, like Poilievre, he is more than happy to blame the “elites” for it. “Ottawa elites are infuriated by the NDP’s proposal to send inflation relief to struggling families, but are silent when billions are handed out in corporate welfare,” Singh said. tweeted Recently.

But this is like trying to get people to a party hosted by someone else. Poilievre owns the inflation problem, and he has been pressing harder and more effectively on the cost-of-living concerns that more Canadians feel lately than the NDP, which is supposed to be the party that represents the nation in theory. working class and low income voters. As the national post office Sabrina Maddeaux wrote in a recent column, Poilievre’s camp is “robbing left populists of an NDP more interested in performative social justice than actual economic justice. When it comes to winning over the younger generation, who now make up the bulk of potential voters, this may be the ticket to 24 Sussex.”

Opinion: One thing should be crystal clear by now: Pierre Poilievre is playing to win, and is not to be taken lightly, writes columnist @maxfawcett for @NatObserver

If there’s one thing about young voters, though, it’s that it can be hard to get them to actually show up and vote, just ask the federal NDP. There is no guarantee that Poilievre’s horseshoe strategy will continue to pay dividends as the most onerous restrictions of COVID-19 creep into our collective rear-view mirror, or that progressive politicians cannot win back those young voters.

But one thing should be very clear by now: Pierre Poilievre is playing to win, and he may have found a new way to do it.

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