As our editor wrote yesterday, despite the polls there are still plenty of grounds for uncertainty about how the Conservatives will perform in next month’s election.
Over-confidence did huge damage to the Party in 2017. Not only did the anticipation of a landslide give wavering voters the excuse they needed not to vote Tory, but it also led CCHQ to misdirect campaign resources, losing vital seats by very slender margins.
Politicos are as prone as anybody else to fighting the last war, and it is important not to let the implosion of Theresa May’s campaign completely shape our analysis. Boris Johnson has weathered both his first TV debate and the launch of Labour’s manifesto. If he can navigate the launch of his own, he might be set.
But whereas most of us can just speculate, the Tory leadership’s perception of the race will directly affect the result as they allocate funds, media appearances, and other assets to this or that marginal seat. And the easiest signal to read is where CCHQ is sending Johnson himself.
The picture that emerges suggests that they have not (yet) been swayed by tantalising visions of a landslide majority. Yes, the Prime Minister has made several visits to the West Midlands (which contains a very large number of potential Tory targets), places such as Bolton in the North West (ditto), and Teesside and Darlington in the North East (ditto again).
But he has also spent time trying to shore up Liberal Democrat-facing marginals in the South West, and one summary suggests that he is actually dividing his attention pretty evenly between defensive and offensive targets.
So far, so sensible. Nobody wants a repeat of 2017.
But the key test of a commander is their ability to adapt on the fly. With Labour failing to repeat their 2017 ignition and the Lib Dem campaign appearing to stall, Conservative strategists just might have to make a decision about whether to adopt a more ambitious and aggressive posture in the final weeks of the campaign.
That call could make the difference between a disappointing night and a majority… or a mere majority and the fabled landslide.
Getting it right will require not just astute assessment of the polls but, as Salma Shah noted, effective on-the-ground intelligence and the ability and will to act on it. Failure to do this was one of the central flaws of the last campaign. It would be an unfortunate irony if the memory of that campaign prevented a necessary pivot once again.