The NDP nearly had a breakthrough in francophone New Brunswick in the 1999 election. The double momentum of Yvon Godin's 1997 federal election victory (and to a lesser extent Angela Vautour's in Beauséjour-Petitcodiac), and the decline of the Liberal Party in that election created a tremendous opportunity for them.
Will that opportunity be replicated in 2010 by the party's first Francophone leader running in a riding on the peninsula combined with a Liberal government that, like in 1999, is facing some serious trouble?
Here are the ridings in which the NDP did well in 1999 that fall in or near the boundaries of those two federal ridings:
Moncton North 14%
Kent South 12%
Miramichi Centre 11%
Add to that list two more ridings: Tracadie-Sheila (where party leader Duguay is running) and Miramichi Bay-Neguac (where Duguay ran and got got 26% in 2006).
These are the ridings that the NDP has its best shot of winning. Particularly the Francophone ridings in the northeast and possibly also Moncton North, a traditionally Liberal riding with a strong PC campaign and no Liberal incumbent.
The NDP seems to be going all in on electing their leader, which is probably a fair strategy. The PCs have made two major announcements in Tracadie-Sheila, leading one to believe they are nervous. Equally good hopes could be Nepisiguit, a heavily unionized riding and home base of Yvon Godin, and Rogersville-Kouchibouguac and Moncton North which are open seats. The NDP would be wise to focus on these four.
A weakened Liberal Party and a PC Party with a leader that lacks appeal in Francophone New Brunswick up against a Francophone NDP leader from the peninsula is an ideal scenario for the NDP.
I would give them 50-50 or slightly better odds at the NDP picking up at least one seat. That said, I gave them a seat in my 2006 prediction so I may want to water my wine a bit on those odds.
Certainly something to watch. I'll follow this post up with a post on the prospects for the Greens and the People's Alliance.