Saturday, September 30, 2006

Liberal leadership - bloggers vs pollsters

It is late Saturday night but at this point it looks like the blogger estimates of delegate strength (for example here and here) will prove to be more accurate than the newspaper polls. This is worth a careful evaluation. I will try to do one after the count is finished.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ekos Poll on Liberal Leadership

The Ekos poll echoes the earlier Globe poll although it surveyed Liberals only in Ontario and Quebec. It is causing journalists to label Rae as the front runner. As all the delegates are being elected this weekend, it might make sense to wait until next Monday to make that judgment.

A couple of points.

First what is locked in this weekend are first choices. That means all those elected this weekend who currently call Rae a second choice are free to change their minds between now and December about that. I suspect Rae will start to receive a fair bit of negative targeting between now and then. He and Ignatieff look like they may finish first and second after the weekend not necessarily in that order. The other thing they both have in common is that they are divisive candidates in the sense that many who don't support them feel considerable animousity.

The other thing that struck me about the poll is that it has Dion leading in Quebec and also being the leading candidate among second choices of those paying the closest attention to the race (see page 12). This is especially significant as turnout among all paid up members is unlikely to surpass 50% (and could be much less). Clearly it is those paying the closest attention who are likely to turn out. One of the problems that all election polls have is that it is difficult to estimate turnout and that may have considerable impact on the outcome.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Globe Poll on Liberal Race Good News for Rae

Setting aside the blowback Rae may get from the bad news (for him as a Liberal leadership candidate) that he donated to the NDP in the 2006 election, a new Strategic Counsel poll that appeared in today's Globe is quite good news for him.

IF, and this is a very big IF (because I think it is very difficult to poll accurately population sub-sets like Liberal members), the poll is really capturing the state of opinion among Liberal delegates, it suggests Rae will win. The crucial quote is this:

Mr. Gregg noted that the second-ballot choices of Liberals supporting Mr. Brison — who with 3-per-cent support would likely drop out after the first or second ballot — break significantly toward Mr. Rae.

The same holds true for supporters of Mr. Dryden and Mr. Kennedy. For example, 32 per cent of Mr. Kennedy's supporters pick Mr. Rae as their second choice, while 18 per cent pick Mr. Ignatieff and 16 per cent Mr. Dion. Mr. Dryden's supporters also break disproportionately to Mr. Rae, but not in as great numbers. Should Mr. Dion fall off the ballot, his supporters would go three to one in favour of Mr. Rae, Mr. Gregg said.

It is the second and third choices that will matter. Rae still has to find a way early on to get decisively ahead of Kennedy and Dion. But the poll makes it clear that he has performed well in the race. See pages 7, 10, 12, 14 & 15 all of which I think are important factors.

Let me end by emphasizing my doubts about the possibility of doing polls like this accurately. However, before now I had discounted Rae's chances completely.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Liberal leadership machinations

A Liberal blogger is wondering why Jim Coutts gave $4400 to the Rae campaign and then later $1000 to Kennedy.

In the 1983 Conservative leadership convention (I was there), one tactic of the Mulroney campaign was to plant operatives in other campaigns as erstwhile supporters but whose real role was to persuade targeted candidate to switch to Mulroney on subsequent ballots. As some candidates clearly waver in making this crucial decision, the rationale for doing so is clear. But it is not a tactic one wants to broadcast. Most people believe political choices should be more straightforward.

1. This analysis about the Coutts donation by blogging Tory Steve Janke is worth reading.
2. Apparently Rae was both donating to NDP candidates in the last election, and cheering their success. This could prove troublesome for him over the next crucial 10 days.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Liberals win New Brunswick

The results are not all in and the popular vote is very close, but the two networks (CBC and CTV) have declared the Liberals led by Shawn Graham as the winners in the New Brunswick election.

This is a defeat not just for putative Conservative leadership aspirant Bernard Lord but also for Stephen Harper. Lord was perhaps the federal Conservatives strongest provincial ally.

However, it could perhaps become an asset if he were to resign and run federally.

It is certainly a good night for this New Brunswick blogger whose prediction of L - 30, PC - 24 and NDP -1 looks quite close.

There is an historical echo here. Lord is losing office after two terms and while still a young man, elected at 33 and defeated at 40, eerily similar to former Manitoba NDP Premier Ed Schreyer. However, the Governor-General's post won't be vacant for four years.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

More on Jack & Afghanistan

The Bloc’s reaction to the NDP’s move was to criticize it. According to this story:
"Duceppe says NDP Leader Jack Layton's proposal to withdraw Canadian soldiers by next spring is a bad idea."

Clearly the Bloc does not feel at all threatened in Quebec by the NDP’s move. They continue instead to look over their shoulder at the Conservatives. But will they pay a price for this?

Michel Vastel made the following comment about the NDP’s move on his blog :
(My loose translation is below, the original French is here)

Jack Layton has triumphed. NDP activists have ratified a clear position, debatable perhaps, but one that makes the social democrats the true opposition to Harper’s government. The principal result of taking these clear positions will be to embarrass Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc Quebecois. I hear more and more often grumbling by Quebeckers directed at the attitude of the Bloc leader who seems to handle the government with great care so that they don’t get dragged into an election call. Whether its about the softwood lumber trade or Canadian troops in Afghanistan, the merit of the New Democrats’ position is that it is clear. Not that of the Bloc Quebecois

Thursday, September 14, 2006

NDP and Afghanistan

Jack Layton has now put the NDP on record as unequivocally opposed to further Canadian participation in military action in Afghanistan. This could potentially represent a clear demarcation between the Liberals and the NDP in the next election, one in which in foreign policy could be highly salient. This will be especially true if Michael Ignatieff wins the Liberal leadership race. Other Liberal candidates with the exception of Scott Brison voted against (or in the case of Bob Rae, said they would have) but none have gone as far as the NDP. Gerard Kennedy issued a statement strongly criticizing the current strategy in Afghanistan. It brought him close to the NDP’s position but still short of a decisive break.

This move by Layton is being derided by the usual Ottawa suspects, but certainly won’t hurt the NDP. Look at this Strategic Counsel poll on page 12. The question offers three options: keep the troops there as long as needed; for a limited period - 2 or more years, or bring them home now. Support for the "bring them home" choice ranges from a low of 31% in the west to 54% in Quebec. All these numbers are well above NDP support in the last election. Whether it will be an important issue in the next election is what we don’t know right now. But another question, on page 10 reveals that 25% are strongly opposed to sending troops to Afghanistan, 35% in Quebec and 22% elsewhere. The actual state of the conflict and the cumulative casualty toll will be the key factors in determining its salience when the campaign arrives.

Opposing the Afghanistan mission is most popular in Quebec. However, the principal beneficiary there will be the Bloc. But it won’t hurt the NDP elsewhere and might help.

I might myself be supportive of the Canadian effort if I thought it had any chance of success in the sense of being able to contribute to a positive revitalization of Afghanistan, but I find it hard to disagree with this article called "Death Trap" that appeared a couple of months ago in the London Sunday Times (TC linked to it at the time). The war is likely to fail and increasingly be seen as another western neo-colonial intervention in the third world. Layton’s course appears to be the wisest alternative.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New Brunswick - An Upset in the Making?

A new poll out in New Brunswick today from Corporate Research Associates (although not posted to their web site yet) suggests the Liberals may win the November 18, 2006 election.

The poll has them ahead by two points 44% to 42%, well within the margin of error so the poll result makes the outcome too close to call. This Liberal blogger, however, has been predicting a Liberal win for some time. And I note that he now thinks the NDP may win a seat.

It is clear the election will almost certainly be close although the fact that the NDP is so weak means the winner is likely to have some sort of majority. This election seems set to do considerable harm to Premier Bernard Lord even if he wins. He called the election early after promising to move to a system of fixed election dates and I think he has continued to eye the federal Conservative leadership as a long term prospect. There aren't many bilingual Conservatives so he would remain a possibility but an election loss would deal his hopes a severe blow.

Parkdale High Park By-election

Keep your eye on the by-election this Thursday September 14 in the Ontario riding of Parkdale-High Park. The news in the Globe and the Star this morning strongly suggests an impending NDP win. The Liberals have launched a late campaign attack on NDP candidate Cheri DiNovo. They would have refrained from doing so if they were confident of victory. So either the NDP will win or come close in a riding the Liberals’ Gerard Kennedy won overwhelmingly with 58% of the vote in the 2003 provincial election to the NDP’s 16%.

However, the NDP’s Peggy Nash won this riding in the January 2006 federal election after just missing in 2004. That suggests a large NDP vote that now appears to be showing up provincially. As a footnote, watch the Green vote, the first test of the party since it chose its new national leader Elizabeth May. The Greens received 7% of the vote in 2003. My bet is that the Greens will tend to vote strategically for the NDP (as happened in the last B.C. election) or won’t show up at the polls and their percentage will drop significantly.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Political ads of Eliot Spitzer

Every once in awhile I see political ads that I find very moving and effective, but not that often. The ads done for Eliot Spitzer's campaign for Governor of New York State fall into that category. There are many but the one I happened to catch on tv, which appealed to me sentimentally, was the one labelled Vote. It won't be there long as its content relates to New York's primary to be held on September 12. That is because the background music is a tune called Ashokan Farewell, which I first heard as part of the soundtrack to the Ken Burn's Civil War series on PBS.

Several of the ads are not to be missed, especially the ones called Let it Shine, Tribute and Newmaker & Newsmaker Two. The ads can be downloaded as Windows media files. Save them and compare them to those you see in the next election campaign in your neighbourhood. I suspect they will hold up well.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Revisiting the Wilson Plame Affair

With the disclosure by Robert Novak that the primary source for his column that ignited this scandal was State Department official Richard Armitage we are now seeing an effort on the part of the Washington establishment to squelch the scandal.

For example, this editorial written Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, really tells us more about the conservative bent of the so-called liberal media that supported the Iraq war, than about the scandal.

That is in part because Armitage is considered very much the Washington insider, as this column by NY Times columnist David Brooks (requires subscription) makes clear:

"Finally, you must always remember that it’s better to be One of Us than One of Them. Washington attracts a community of smart public-service-oriented people. This permanent community has its own set of mores. It’s important to be politically temperate. ...

Members of the Washington community, like members of all decent communities, protect one another. Richard Armitage is a member of this community. ...."

I have edited out much of the Brooks spin, but the bottom line is that he is making every effort to minimize the notion that there was any wrongdoing. A more dispassionate (although still slanted to the Washington insider perspective) description of what is happening can be found here.

But the facts of this episode will not be so easily swept under the carpet. Take a look at this fiery posting on the blog Firedoglake with a link to this analysis by former CIA and State Department employee Larry Johnson.

He concludes thus:

"We must also remember that the Government sanctioned attack on the Wilsons is not an isolated event. Just ask former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill or National Security Advisor Richard Clarke. Add to this list the names of the two CIA Baghdad Chiefs of Station who were savaged for their prescient early warnings that Iraq was moving into a civil war. The Plame/Wilson affair stands as a stark reminder that President Bush and his minions prefer destroying those who call them to account for failed policies rather than admit error and take corrective measures that will serve the longterm interests of the United States. As we move towards a new war with Iran, we should not be surprised that people who know the truth are reluctant to come forward. If you choose to blow the whistle you are choosing career suicide and a full frontal assault on your character. In smearing the Wilsons, Bush and Cheney also are sliming America."