Thursday, September 28, 2006

Revisiting my mistakes

As covered in my election post mortem post, I miscalled 7 ridings on election night.

Some were honest mistakes:

  • Saint John Portland was listed as too close to call so I don't feel too bad about it. It stayed with the incumbent by 277 votes while I thought it would go to the challenger by a small margin. This was a case of collapsing NDP vote not going to the Liberals but instead to the Tories which we saw in a few places around the province.

  • Dieppe Centre-Lewisville I said I was confident would go Liberal. Despite this, it stayed Tory by the smallest margin of the night: 59 votes. This seems to have been due to the Tory areas of Lewisville joining the riding but we'll have to wait for poll-by-poll results to know for sure.

  • Charlotte-Campobello was another I was confident with but maybe I shouldn't have been, I always expected this to be a close race but I was sure it would be close in favour of the Liberal. It stayed PC by 282 votes.

  • Southwest Miramichi I had listed as somewhat uneasy. This was a seat the Tories had to pick up to win and when it started to go Liberal on election night, I knew my prediction of a Liberal victory had to be right. As I mentioned both in the post mortem and in early comments, it is a "small c" conservative riding, but Rick Brewer, a former minister, plays well here and has been a great constituency MLA.
The other three ridings however is where I really missed the boat.


This riding was listed as "too close to call" with my call being a PC gain. This was because I thought Louis-Philippe McGraw was a strong candidate. My own advice to myself was that McGraw had been out of the riding since he lost it so that would hurt him. Also Peninsula hospital downgrades had outraged people and sent them fleeing from the Tories but, I thought, the Liberal failure to promise to reverse the cuts, contradicting comments by Denis Landry and Hédard Albert, could give McGraw a boost.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

The final result? Landry 56%, McGraw 44%.

A win by over 1000 votes and 12% is not close. Not even a little bit. I really misread this riding.


Here was a real shocker. I can't wait until the poll-by-poll results become available here so I can better understand what happened.

While I thought I knew what I was talking about in Centre-Péninsule, I don't really know the area well, don't know any people from the riding and was doing a lot of guessing. Woodstock was a different case.

I said I was "99% sure of the outcome" in Woodstock. Quite frankly, I almost put it under the heading "I am more sure of the fate of this riding than of my age, name and sexual orientation". Fortunately I did not!! A number of other bloggers were calling Woodstock PC so, despite my certainty, I didn't quite put it in my top category. Thank God.

I know Woodstock. My father was born there. I have family there. I have friends there. I have been there hundreds of times.

Now, this riding is a lot more than just the Town of Woodstock but I thought I had taken that into account. The Town is the very north end (pretty much) of the riding while there are lots of rural areas to the south. The town and the few points north were outraged by the Valley hospital restructuring and were sure to vote Liberal. I guessed they would vote 80% Liberal, we'll have to see the poll-by-polls, but obviously this was wrong. Not only did David Alward win, he won huge. He won by 13% of the vote.

I did not see this coming. Quite frankly, I think if I had the choice between choosing 55 seats for the Tories and the Tories winning Woodstock by 13%, I would have chosen the former.

Clearly three things have happened here:

a) people in Woodstock aren't as angry as I thought
b) the population of Woodstock (town) must be a fair smaller fraction of that of the whole riding than I though
c) David Alward must be a far better constituency man than I gave him credit for


This, ladies and gentlemen, was the upset of the night.

I shifted this back and forth and back and forth between the Tories and Too Close To Call and finally unded up with it in the NDP column. It was only once marked as Liberal and that was in my preliminary projection which bore no resemblance to my final call.

I made a lot of mistakes here. First, let's revisit the facts as I understood them.

Brad Green was vunerable. He won in 2003 by a margin of 40% over 38% over one of the weakest candidates any party has ever put forward by the Liberals. Rick Miles was an unknown, but was certainly a better candidate than the Liberals put forward in 2003 and should have had the edge.

After that is where my thinking started to falter.

It was my belief that the NDP were a big challenge to a Liberal victory here. They had 23% in 2003, and though redistribution hurt them, they still had over 20% of the vote under the new boundaries. They had a better candidate in 2006 than they had in 2003. They had their leader running next door. These things told me that the NDP would at least hold their vote if not grow from there.

Therefore, if the NDP vote was going to grow, a Liberal victory seemed impossible. It was Dennis Atchison's NDP candidacy which first caused me to move this into the leans PC column.

The Atchison campaign ran radio ads, something impressive for an NDP campaign, and bloggers seemed to be saying that this was a race between Green and Atchison so, I jumped on the bandwagon.

At the end, though I wasn't really to confident to see this go NDP (I put it in the "ridings to watch"/"too close to call" category), I did call it that way. In my mind I thought that the NDP was going to pick up a riding somewhere, somehow, for sure. The best chance I could see on the map was Fredericton-Silverwood, so I made the call.

The final result was Rick Miles 47%, Brad Green 41%, Dennis Atchison 12%.

As you can see Atchison was not even in this race. If I had known that, I would probably have called it safe Liberal as we have established that Brad Green was weak and in trouble.

Where did I go wrong?

1.) I thought Miles was a weak candidate. He was an unknown who I'd never met. The only thing I saw of him was the CBC TV profile on Fredericton-Silverwood in which he and Dennis Atchison had an argument about the merits of voting NDP. Atchison seemed relatively smooth while Miles performance was not impressive. I thought that this was an encounter CBC had staged, but it turns out it was a matter of two candidates being in the same place in the same time, cameras appearing and a reporter goading them for sparks. Miles performance here was not great, but I thought it was indicative of his overall performance. I was wrong.

2.) I thought Atchison had become "the" opponent for Brad Green. As I've said over and over, Brad Green was very vunerable and I thought all along he was likely to lose his seat. A strong NDP candidate was a saving grace for Green. An NDP candidate who gained the momentum could have done the unseating. However, it is clear that the consensus around Atchison did not exist, it in fact collased around Miles who, as the Liberal candidate, was natural.

3.) I thought Rick Miles was without experience. He, as I've discussed, was a newcomer to politics. What I didn't know was that his campaign was being managed by none other than Jim Mockler. Mockler was the campaign manager for the Liberals in Fredericton South in the 1998 by-election and the 1999 election. He knows the riding and he knows how to run a campaign. From 2000-2003, Mockler was on the provincial executive of the party, from 2002-2003 as president. Though the candidate lacked experience, his team did not and this can, as we saw, make all of the difference in the world.

I thought the Liberals had 30 seats without this one in their tally or even on their radar. They won 29. The differnce between 28 seats and 29 seats is the difference between a weak and a stable majority. The Liberals are very lucky I was wrong with this riding or else they would be presiding over the same sort of weak government that Lord had from 2003-2006 and might have been back to the polls long before 2010. Thanks to Rick Miles and his campaign team, they've probably got four years to govern.


Harrap said...

and bloggers seemed to be saying that this was a race between Green and Atchison so, I jumped on the bandwagon.

I was one of those bloggers ;)

Frankly the extent of the NDP collapse was surprising.

On another riding, I thought Fredericton-Lincoln would go Liberal would be because of the Byrne-factor (much as Ed Broadbent delivered Ottawa-Centre (a safe Liberal seat) to the NDP in the 2004 federal election). Overall though, I believe Broadbent did have less than 40% of the vote but a margin of 6,000 votes over Mahoney -- I was seeing a similar scenario in Fredericon-Lincoln... now I'm thinking even without Byrne the Liberals would have won Fredericton-Lincoln.

Harrap said...

It's strange though, alot of people I talk too weren't at all surprised by the complete collapse in the NDP vote... was it just me who thought the NDP could do better?

NDP'ers tend to have a pretty loyal core of voters who stay with the party in good times and bad... but this didn't seem to be entirely the case in this election.

nbpolitico said...

Well I think I thought the NDP vote would slip but not nearly as much.

I had them at about 7 to 8% but they did well in places I didn't expect (Miramichi Bay-Neguac) and way worse in places than I expected (Fredericton-Silverwood and Fredericton-Lincoln).

Never in a million years would I have guessed Brewer would get less than 20% and the same goes for Atchison.

Anonymous said...

On an unrelated topic I was surprised that Shawn Graham asked Bernard Lord to go to Francophonie conference. Lord should have been gracious and let Graham go. But it turned out ok. It looks he was ignored at the conference including by Harper. It serves him right and his egotistic personality.

Spinks said...

Once the NDP couldn't fill the 55 seats the writing was on the wall. Elizabeth Weir was popular and she couldn't win more than one seat. Allison Brewer is one of those candidates who tend to polarize people one way or the other. Factor that in in a province where the NDP have yet to gain any significant toehold and they didn't have a chance. You kept the faith though harrap and hey we had something to write about in what was otherwise a dull campaign.

Harrap said...

Miramichi Bay-Neguac was a surprise (I believe during part of the night they were even running second).

Was that the riding where a Catholic Priest was the NDP candidate? I remember a Catholic Priest (who gave the party its best showing in this election) was complaining that Brewer's history as Director of the Morgentaller Clinic made it hard for him to win over Catholic voters... which makes one wonder, what would have been the result in that riding had Brewer NOT been the NDP leader?

Harrap said...

lol, you're right Spinks, the NDP did give us alot to write and talk about ;)

nbpolitico said...

Harrap - yes that priest was the candidate in Neguac.

Spinks - I agree Brewer is an awful leader and screwed the NDP but I think your description of the Weir years isn't quite right.

I think she could have won as many as 3 or 4 seats in some elections if she had targetted her campaign effectively. I've written about this other places before but I think Weir was careful to not win more seats to avoid losing the limelight.

Anonymous said...

"..Weir was careful to not win more seats to avoid losing the limelight." Absolutely. She has huge ego. Then she was sell-out to Bernard Lord to take a plum job. I was disappointed with her. She could have retired and done any number of things but to be bought out in this manner does not impress me much.

Anonymous said...

PNB -- re: your Woodstock analysis. You were right on in every respect except you forgot one more reason:

d) Art Slipp looks Bubbles from the Trailer Park Boys and has campaigned several times as an NDPer. Carleton County people are traditionalists and they don't appreciate turncoats.

Anonymous said...

Hi guys,

I posted anonymously on Spinks' blog about the NDP collapse and how it was tied to left nervousness about conservatism.

I was pretty much either dismissed or people said they just didn't understand the logic. Well, that's fair. However, I can only speak to my experience as a left-leaning person who has been a regular NDP voter and occasional Liberal voter, and whose large circle of friends (in the Fredericton-Silverwood riding) all tend to lean the same way.

It was an open topic of discussion among us. People who would've voted NDP Federally in February voted Lib because they are scared of Harper's socially conservative policies and needed a strong opposition, and people who would've voted Atchison this time voted for Rick Miles because they are nervous that Provincial tories could bolster or follow in step with those conservative federal policies.

People may not understand it, or may refuse to believe it, but I'd love to see province-wide polling that asks regular NDP voters *why* they turned to the Libs this time. I guarantee you, the "stop the social conservatives" factor is there and it's significant.

nbpolitico said...

anon at 12:24..

That is very interesting. I certainly understand that trend federally but both the provincial Liberals and Conservatives are moderately socially conservative.

(Both oppose expanded abortion access and both supported legislation to allow civil servants to refuse to perform gay marriages)

So I am not sure it would make sense for NDP supporters to vote that way in a provincial election, however it is possible that they are just getting mixed up but I can't imagine half of the NDP voter pool would be mixed up.

Spinks said...

NBpolitico is bang on. There's very little difference between the Liberals and PC's provincially. I've argued many times that many of the Liberals in NB are more conservative than the PC's.

Federally is a different story and I'm not surprised NDP supporters might tend to vote Liberal. I'd vote Conservative if it meant keeping the NDP out of power. They scare the crap out of me with the tax and spend philosophy. So as you can see it goes both ways, just depends on your point of view.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon 7:32,

Lord ignored by Harper at La Francophonie? Sure seem to be a lot of photos of Lord and Harper conferring and having a laugh in today's Southam newspapers.

You wouldn't be talking out of your rear would you?

Anonymous said...

3:07 PM sore loser eh! They showed lot more on T.V. where Harper just shook hands with Bernie like any other by-stander and kept moving. Eat your heart out. He is done. Kaput. You do not have to be rude. Bernie is going to be not even a footnote in history.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:38 PM,

I guess the TV in your Mom's basement didn't show the Francophonie conference table, where Lord is sitting right BESIDE Harper. Tough for Harper to shake his hand and keep going I guess wouldn't it.

Didn't see it? Here you go.


JL said...

oooh, a battle of the anon's..

Your link is busted last anon. I think this is the photo you are talking about.

Lord will be running federally in the next election. Harper wouldn't be shunning him.

Anonymous said...

8:00 PM your mama did not even give correct link.

Lord is a toast.

Anonymous said...

8:06 PM, thank you for the correct URL. They do look chummy:) It looks Lord is in some other world. I suppose organizers in Romania did not realize that he is no longer going to be Premier and he got the seat next to Harper by default.

Anonymous said...

A final note of explanation, yes, we understand that the provincial Tories and Libs are practically identical in terms of social conservatism/liberalism.

However the rationale of voting Lib rather than NDP provincially to stop the Tories is a concern that provincial Tory governments could begin to track more conservatively with the Harper gang in power. It's not a case of being mixed up, it's a case of being worried about future social trends and wanting to ensure liberal social values. Thanks for your comments.