I ask these questions because I'm convinced it's not my many biases telling me that my party is having a good campaign, and the Tories are, well, having a less than stellar time. Be it leaders' non-debates, pledges to cut social security even further, or going all sixes and sevens over Labour's NonDoms announcement, they're looking every inch like the less of the sum of their parts. Despite all that hedge fund cash and dodgy donations laundered through their private members' clubs, it just goes to show you can't put a lipstick on a turd.
Take this morning's knockabout, for example. Michael Fallon, the former defence secretary and today's Dave stand-in attacked Ed Miliband for "stabbing his brother in the back" and worse is "willing to stab the country in the back". Hmmm. Fallon should be careful. Associating "backstabbing" with politicians of a Jewish background doesn't have a great historical track record. Anyway, the Tories attack line is that because the SNP are unilateralists, Labour are only too happy to ditch Trident replacement in exchange for the keys to Number 10. Not that I'm interested in defending Trident, nevertheless both parties have long indicated that it's a red line in coalition negotiations, it would not be a barrier to deals that fall short of this. The politics hacks know this. The Scottish public certainly know this. And anyone paying attention to politics knows this. The Tories then have launched a deliberately cynical attack they know not to be true in the hope Ed will look like an unprincipled chancer. And if it hoodwinks the tiny number for whom retention of nuclear weapons is a deal maker, so much the better.
It was a clumsy attack. It was a desperate attack. One man, however, disagrees. Dan Hodges discerns a clever plan behind Fallon's remarks. They're looking to weaponise Ed Miliband, to turn the election into a question of his character, to focus on the choice between him and a vaporous Dave. Focus groups and years of grim approval ratings tell them this has to work. Because, let's face it, when your coming manifesto promises little more than demented and unnecessary cuts, a possible EU exit, and precious little else the Tories have already lost the politics. After all, negative politics won in Scotland, so why not here too? Why not now? So this, for Dan - and the anonymous briefers always seeking his ear - is about making Ed Miliband appear a credible figure, as someone who could be PM. And what the Tories are banking their entire strategy on is voters will look at that and balk.
Because key Tories believe this to be true, it has to be true. There are two problems with this. First, people don't like negative campaigning. Most don't even like watching politicians argue. The Conservative strategy can be as clever clever as Dan thinks, what matters for the great many people who don't follow politics closely but will be voting next month is that Labour are being seen to stand up for the NHS, a higher minimum wage, tax cuts for small business, and tax crackdowns on the super rich; and the Tories are slamming Ed for looking silly. Talk about not seeing the electorate for Westminster point scoring. To think the Tories have forked out good money for this incisive strategy.
The second point is things change. What was commonsense yesterday becomes an absurd anachronism today. Contrary to received hack wisdom, Dan's included, it does appear that the more the general public see of Ed, the more they like him. It's only one poll, but for the first time ever Survation have shown his approval rating overtake Dave's. If the Tories want to throw more mud at the Labour leader, that just gives him the opportunity to look like a man of integrity and a man of ideas, things that will shift the election more in our direction. The Tories are dumb enough and stupid enough to do so. The Tories still have advantages on economic competency ratings and Dave looking 'more prime ministerial (good job, as that's his sole talent), but these too can change.
With an election moving in Labour's direction, with them doing very well in the marginals, with a leader who's becoming an asset the Tories cannot but cling to the dogmatic certainties cultivated over five, long years. Handing prominent Conservatives advice to make personal attacks on Ed Miliband isn't a sign of anything clever. It underlines their political bankruptcy and eviction of anything resembling strategic sense. So yes, by all means, please continue.