Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Keep May out

Back in 2008, I made the case for Elizabeth May to be included in the debate. This election, I hold a different view.

In 2008, the Greens had a good case to make. They were the modern day answer to Reform and the Bloc in 1993; parties that had not won seats in a general election but polled far ahead of other "fringe" parties and had a good chance of winning seats. They were included in the debates and went on to both win more than 50 seats. How much the debates influenced their electoral showing is, well, a matter for debate, but it is obvious that it helped these parties (particularly Reform) get on to more voters' radars.

In 2011, the Greens no longer can make that case. While neither of the scenarios I envisioned for the Greens after being in the debates in 2008 came to pass, the fact is that their thesis was disproven. The whole argument for the Greens to be in the debates was that they were building up impressive amounts of support with little money and public exposure. The debates would undo the bottleneck they faced allowing them to raise funds and earn votes.

It didn't happen. Their vote increased incrementally as it had for the past several elections. They had no electoral breakthrough, and really didn't do any better than they likely would have without the debate.

The more leaders you have in the leaders' debate, the less of a debate it becomes and what you get is a shouting match. I'm all for including up-and-comers to give them the chance to breakthrough. But when they get that chance and fail, let's not crowd the stage with also rans.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Harper's easy path to majority

So we're looking at a federal election on May 2 or 9. And at first blush, it looks like Stephen Harper has a pretty easy path to a majority government. As Calgary Grit noted, the current polls suggest an 85% chance of a majority government. (Though he also notes that polls at this point are fairly meaningless as the last three parties ejected from office have led in polls when the writ dropped.)

But let's just assume for a moment that things keep chugging along fairly well for Harper and the Conservatives. After all, the growing number of "scandals" haven't seemed to have stuck and their budget was textbook in its use of microtargetting the sorts of people the Conservatives need to pick up as voters.

As it stands today, the Conservatives are only 11 seats short of a majority. And it isn't unreasonable to imagine that they could hold all or most of the seats they already have. Some like to talk about losses in Quebec, but the last election would seem to be a low-water-mark for them in that province considering all of the anger over arts cuts in 2008.

So let's lake a look at the top 20 pickup opportunities for the Conservatives.

Atlantic Canada

There are a number of pick-up opportunities in Atlantic Canada for the Tories. Newfoundland is an obvious target after they were shut out there in 2008 and now that Danny Williams is gone. And after widening their grip on New Brunswick to 6 seats in 2008, there is plenty of opportunity for them to grow here as well.

St. John's East and St. John's South-Mount Pearl

Both of these seats have been traditionally in the blue column. They went against the Tories in 1993 and 2008 but those seem to be historical anomalies. With Danny Williams gone both of these should be easy targets for the Tories - though Jack Harris may be a bit harder to beat than your average opposition member in St. John's.


Fabian Manning very nearly got re-elected here even when Danny Williams was running his ABC campaign. Manning is musing about resigning his Senate seat to run again which would suggest this seat is a target.


Daniel Allain very nearly defeated Brian Murphy in 2008. Murphy was thought by many to be untouchable so with that x-factor wiped away and the growing rumours that none other than Bernard Lord will be the Conservative candidate, things are looking pretty blue in Moncton.


Jean-Claude D'Amours barely won here in 2006 against former Hatfield minister Jean-Pierre Ouellet. While he did better in 2008, it is hard to imagine him being triumphant again if the rumours about a comeback for Bernard Valcourt are true.


Kingston and the Islands

This seat, surrounded on all sides by blue, has been held by narrower and narrower margins by Liberal speaker Peter Milliken. With Milliken retiring it seems to be a sure bet to go Tory.


Helena Guergis' seat will presumably come back to the Tories, but one never knows how the vote might split if she runs as an independent.


The Liberals have been holding this seat by smaller and smaller margins thanks to a very strong Green base here - it was there closest seat to a win in 2008 despite Elizabeth May running unopposed by the Liberals in Central Nova. That coupled with a strong NDP prescence would suggest that a Tory win over a three-way vote split on the left is inevitable eventually.

Welland, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay—Rainy River, and Thunder Bay—Superior North

These northern and/or rural Ontario seats all went to the NDP by relatively small margins in 2008. They are heavily targeted by the Conservatives and they'll win some if not all of these.

Brampton—Springdale, Brampton West, and Ajax—Pickering

These 905 area code seats all went to the Liberals by relatively small margins in 2008. They are heavily targeted by the Conservatives and they'll win some if not all of these.

Western and Northern Canada

Western Arctic

The NDP barely helded this seat in 2008 and the Conservatives have been heavily targeting Northern Canada generally and this seat specifically.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca

Keith Martin has managed to just barely hold on to this seat since switching to the Liberals in 2004. With his retirement it seems a no brainer for the Tories to pick it up.


Can the NDP hold a seat in Edmonton for two elections in a row? I don't think it likely.


The Conservatives (and the Canadian Alliance before them) have almost won this seat every election going back to 2000. With Bill Siksay's retirement they may have the edge they need.

Vancouver South

This seat was close enough for an automatic recount in 2008, and will likely be closely targeted again.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Sarah Palin's AlaskaArizona

Politico's Ben Smith reports today that were Sarah Palin to run for president, she would base her campaign in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale.

The reason:
One lesson of Palin's sometimes-difficult time in the spotlight has been that Alaska is an extremely difficult base for national politics. From a distant political culture to a daunting time difference, Palin hasn't been terribly well served by the fact that her state is little-known to reporters in the lower 48, and that email inquiries arrive at 3:00 a.m. needing answers by 5:00 a.m.
There is a more specific rational for the Phoenix area: there are only 6 year-round detinations in the Lower 48 from Anchorage:
  • Chicago (home base of the Obama campaign)

  • Minneaplois (home base of the Pawlenty campaign)

  • Salt Lake City (where both Huntsman and Romney dominate)

  • Portland and Seattle (which lie in the Pacific time zone, an extra hour from most of the media)

  • and Phoenix.
Seems like a pretty logicial and well-thought-out place. Couple that with the fact that Palin daughter Bristol has settled in the area and it makes one wonder if Sarah Palin may be more serious about running for president than the conventional wisdom suggests.