One thing I learned as a police reporter is to observe.
At a crime scene or car crash, I learned to just stand back and watch. Sometimes it paid off.
Look to see who else is standing around watching. Hang around to see who brings flowers or leaves a photo or candle. Watch what the cops are doing, particularly the Ident guys. Where are they putting evidence markers? A blood trail or shell casings?
At a collision, look for skid marks. The length of the skid can tell you how fast a car was going. If there’s no skid, that obviously tells you the driver never braked. He didn’t see the light had turned red or the kid had stepped out to cross the road.
Sometimes you can even quickly piece together what happened without talking to the cops.
It’s not same in politics.
This campaign, colleague Larry Kusch and I decided to split up how we cover the leaders. Larry does one guy one week, I do him another. One of us picks up Liberal leader Jon Gerrard where we can.
Our focus is on Tory leader Hugh McFadyen and Premier Greg Selinger. One of these men will be premier Oct. 4.
We’re not only watching for where they’re campaigning, what ridings they’re spending a lot of time, but how they appear. Are they tired? Are they properly briefed? Do they stay on message? Are they patient with the media and answer all our questions? Do they appear confident? How do they interact with other people in the room and the public?
The other thing I look for is the organization behind the leader. Are the handlers all in place? Does the sound equipment work? What’s the backdrop? Is it appropriate to the announcement? And who else is in the room? Who else is attending?
Larry and I talk a lot — I talk to Larry more than to my wife — and our take is that both men and their parties are handling themselves as you’d expect.
Neither is giving an inch.
So with less than three weeks to go, neither Larry nor I can get a good read on which campaign is pulling ahead.
I can watch Selinger and McFadyen all I want, but right now it doesn’t tell me anything.