Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ads for Bill Richardson

These biographic ads for Bill Richardson are both brilliant and funny (don't miss the second one). His rise in the polls is clearly linked to the communications.

The Democrats have an abundance of strong candidates; the Republicans by contrast are struggling and many are now putting their hopes on Law and Order actor Fred Thompson.

Update: I like these low budget Young Liberal ads as well, made in response to Conservative ads that attack Dion on, of all issues, senate reform.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Manitoba election - long term implications

The election produced (as expected by the end of the campaign) another majority for the NDP. It was nonetheless a remarkable outcome. Not only was it an unprecedented third majority for Gary Doer and the NDP, it was only the second time in modern Manitoba political history that it had happened, the other being Duff Roblin's three majorities of 1959, 1962 and 1966.

The modern era of Manitoba politics dates from 1958 when the Liberal-Progressive coalition that had ruled in one form or another since 1922 was defeated by Duff Roblin. The Roblin Progressive Conservatives formed a minority government he transformed into a majority a year later. The PCs initiated a new party system in Manitoba in which the Progressive Conservatives were dominant while the opposition was fairly evenly split between the Liberals and the CCF-NDP - it continued for the next decade. Following the NDP's first victory in 1969 a new party system was initiated that could best be described as a competitive two party system with the NDP and the PCs alternating in government, the governing party generally holding only a small majority of seats in the Manitoba legislature, with the Liberals as a third party trailing distantly behind the other two in votes and seats. The Carstairs Liberal uprising, which emerged suddenly in 1988 and had all but disappeared by 1995, caused this system to waver temporarily, but the return of the NDP to power in 1999 seemed firmly to re-establish the post-1969 party system.

However, one other unprecedented aspect of the 2007 election is that it witnessed not just the third majority for the NDP, but the second time in a row that their majority of seats had increased. And for the second election in a row NDP support has become relatively more concentrated in the City of Winnipeg. The NDP had a higher percentage of votes overall in 2003 but they increased their share of the vote in the City of Winnipeg in 2007 (from 52 to 53%) and this gave them two additional seats there (and almost a third). The only constituency they lost was in Brandon.

These numbers can be seen in Winnipeg's electoral map, which is now completely NDP orange in the city except for three ridings in the southwest corner (and one in the northeast). Combined with the absolute NDP dominance in the northern ridings, where NDP strength has grown steadily stronger over time, the NDP's control of much of the city suggests we may be seeing a new party system emerge. This analysis is still speculative, but it is possible that this new party system will be one where there is a single party (the NDP) that would dominate the political scene most of the time, while the opposition PCs would only able to take power occasionally, and subsequently would not able to hang on to the reigns of power for longer than a term or perhaps two.

We do have other party systems in Canada where one party has been generally stronger than the others for a prolonged period - in Alberta since 1971 the Conservatives have been completely dominant federally and provincially, while in Ontario the Liberal Party has tended to dominate the federal scene since 1963, and the CCF-NDP has held power for 47 of the past 63 years in Saskatchewan.

The NDP in Manitoba has been in office more often than not since 1969 but generally by a small margin until 2003. This does look very much like a new party system in Manitoba - one where the NDP completely controls such a large share of the seats in Winnipeg and the North that it becomes extremely difficult for the Conservatives to find a way to win office. In a year where it seems certain the NDP will lose office in Saskatchewan it appears the centre of electoral gravity for the party is going to edge a little to the east.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Seat by Seat Predictions in Manitoba

TC's forecaster delivers a global overview of the Manitoba election. However, there are always individual contests in ridings that can override the general trend. Although the seat forecaster doesn't predict these outcomes, I would not be completely surprised if the PCs pick up La Verendrye and Brandon West, both traditional PC strongholds prior to the Gary Doer era. While the NDP is reportedly pressing the PCs in a couple of Winnipeg seats it is difficult to imagine them overcoming the historic trend and doing even better than in 2003.

There are interesting seat-by-seat predictions on two Manitoba blogs from observers closer to the scene: Endless Spin Cycle and Praire Topiary. I offer no critique but they make interesting reading.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

PEI Poll Suggests Opposition Win Coming

A poll out today in Prince Edward Island suggests it may be the end of line for Pat Binns:
Prince Edward Island can expect a massive sea change that will end a decade of Tory rule and put Robert Ghiz in the Premier’s Office, pollsters for The Guardian say.
A poll conducted by Corporate Research Associates exclusively for this newspaper puts the Liberal party at 49 per cent, seven percentage points ahead of the governing Progressive Conservatives.

The PCs have the support of 42 per cent of decided and leaning voters.
It isn't easy to win multiple provincial elections. TC thinks we will see a repeat of this in Saskatchewan when the time comes.

New Angus Reid Poll in Manitoba

There is another new poll out today on the Manitoba election, this one is an online survey. It is by Angus Reid Strategies, which is making an effort to do random sample polling on the internet. It reports that the NDP would replicate its showing of 2003:
...49 per cent of decided voters would support the NDP in the ballot to renew the Manitoba Legislative Assembly.

The Progressive Conservatives are second with 37 per cent, followed by the Liberal Party with nine per cent, and the Green Party with five per cent.

It will be quite interesting to see how accurate this survey is compared with the Probe Research poll, which uses a more traditional methodology. Either way it remains clear that Gary Doer is headed for victory.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Probe Poll - Manitoba Election Forecast

The poll out today has results, which when converted to seats using my forecast model, come close to replicating the results of the last election:
The numbers above represent the province-wide overall numbers produced by the pollsters. Probe also produced regional data including Winnipeg/Non-Winnipeg splits. I have created a separate model based on two regions (Winnipeg & Rural/North) - when I do the calculation using this independently generated model (the principles of the methodology are the same), it exactly replicates the outcome of the June 10, 2003 election.

This should not be surprising: the Winnipeg results in the Probe poll are almost exactly the same as the Winnipeg vote shares in 2003. Although the rural numbers in the poll report a significant shift from 2003, the fact is that most rural contests like most in the city are completely one-sided affairs, whether the constituency is voting NDP or Conservative. It takes a larger shift than reported by Probe research to change the outcome in rural areas according to my estimate.

Even in the City of Winnipeg the same pattern for the most part holds. To the extent there are marginals they are mostly urban but there are not many. Another feature of the pattern emerging from the 2003 election is that wide movements in the poll yield surprisingly limited seat shifts.

Nevertheless I don't really expect a truly identical result to emerge. There are typically a few idiosyncratic results that don't follow the overall pattern. For example, I would not be surprised to see former Tory MP Rick Borotsik win in Brandon West, although he would have to overcome an enormous margin to do so.

The poll does have a margin of error. However, if we take two points away from the NDP and give them to the Conservatives we still would move only one additional seat the Tories way. I have more confidence in the overall numbers than the regional - because they are sub-samples the margin of error is much higher.

Since 1969 Manitoba has been split along a northwest to southeast axis - in general, to the north and east, the NDP dominates while the Conservatives hold sway to the south and west. The Liberals have generally managed only to capture the odd seat in the city (with the notable exception of the 1988 election). This familiar pattern should still be highly visible on election night.

Manitoba Party Preference Poll - NDP Will Win

The party preference numbers are out now and they are clear: this election will go to the NDP. TC will have more later.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

New Poll on Manitoba Election

The Probe research poll on the Manitoba election began to be released tonight with leadership approval numbers.

Gary Doer's ratings top the the field:

A poll commissioned by the Winnipeg Free Press and Global Television has Premier Gary Doer as the only leader considered to be performing well by a majority of Manitobans during this provincial election campaign.

Fifty-four per cent of respondents to a recent telephone survey of 800 Manitobans said they rated Doer's campaign performance as "excellent" or "good."

Only 31 per cent rated Doer's performance as "fair" or "poor."

Not so for Tory leader Hugh McFadyen or Liberal leader Jon Gerrard.

TC's view is that in elections party preference numbers are the much better predictor of the outcome on voting day but the leadership numbers are generally at least consistent with the outcome, if not a precise means of forecasting the distribution of seats on election day. It seems likely the party preference numbers will be out tomorrow night.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Manitoba Election belongs to Doer

A weekly wrap-up story in today's Winnipeg Free Press confirms the observation made in TC's previous post:

Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen started Week 3 of the campaign with a big bang, but it wasn't the sort of jolt his party was looking for.

His promise to bring back the Winnipeg Jets -- a move meant to entice young people to stay in Manitoba and get voters thinking big again -- was the first time the race elicited any sense of noticeable energy in the electorate. Problem is, it was mostly negative.

Radio talk shows and newspaper letters to the editor overflowed with voters expressing shock, disbelief and outright contempt for McFadyen's promise, and candidates heard the same at the door. Premier Gary Doer has made it a punchline all week.

Interestingly the story characterizes Doer's promises as "a little more of the same". Another interesting point, with broader implications is the failure of the Manitoba Liberals to make Crocus a key issue. This strongly suggests to TC that the income trust tax issue is not going to be important in the next federal election, which is now off until after the Bloc Qu├ębecois selects a new leader and that probably means 2008 at the earliest.

The inevitable conclusion is that it is too late now for the Conservatives. They will be haunted by the Jets promise all the way to polling day, particularly because of when they made it.

Victory this time should have been theirs. It is difficult for parties in Canada to win third terms - they tend to accumulate too many grievances along the way. However, Gary Doer is a shrewd politician with sure political instincts, and the Jets promise has revealed McFadyen as a not ready for prime time player. No polls have been published yet but it is clear now who will win.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Promising too much

One of the strategically clever moves by Stephen Harper in the 2006 election was to make small but targeted promises to certain classes of voters, promises that symbolically said the Conservatives cared about and connected with their concerns. The examples that come to mind are the transit and sports equipment tax credits.

It is always better to underpromise and overdeliver. A promise deemed too extravagant to be credible can be an enormous mistake.

That appears to be the case with a promise by Manitoba Progressive Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen who earlier this week promised he would bring the Jets back to Winnipeg. It is extraordinarily foolish to promise something over which you have no control. If by chance you do get elected, it can easily return to haunt you.

But before then there is the risk that not only will no one believe you, but the whole idea will be subject to ridicule. That seems to be the case in this instance. A correspondent tells TC all the letters to the editor of the Free Press were negative about the promise. The move did capture a lot of local attention. Too much it seems.

This excerpt from a column in the Free Press seems to capture the zeitgeist:

City yawns as McFadyen promises return of Jets

Thu May 10 2007



THAT thudding sound you heard Tuesday morning was Hugh McFadyen's Great Big Idea hitting the ground like an anvil dropped from on high.

The Tory leader promised to bring back the Jets.

The city yawned.

McFadyen must have thought this one was a clear winner. He kitted up in a Jets jersey, used hockey great and former Jets captain Thomas Steen as a prop and announced he'd have an NHL team back in the 'Peg by 2011.

He did not say how much public money he'd spend or how he'd ensure the team wouldn't get into financial trouble.

This was a broad stroke promise. My gosh, he seemed to imply, this is such a terrific pledge that only nitpickers, Gary Doer and the damned media would dare question me on the details.

This is a key period in any election campaign. Voters are just now making up their minds. The pledge was clearly an error. The timing means that it could be fatal.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Manitoba Election Treading Water

In most elections there comes a point where the campaign crystalizes and it appears to be about something; the zeitgeist gels, and there is a clear perspective one can get. It hasn't happened yet in Manitoba. There have also as yet been no polls.

Sometimes a campaign drifts right on into election day. This happened last year in Nova Scotia. These circumstances favour the incumbent. But there are still two weeks to go. A lot could happen.

I think the one interesting item was an absolutely dumb promise by PC leader Hugh McFadyen, that he would give every MLA a veto over hydro privatization. This is transparently protesting too much, and, if anything, lends credence to the charge by the NDP that he wants to sell the utility. The case for McFadyen as a hydro privatizer is nicely summarized by an NDP web site dedicated to doing in Hugh.

Evidence of Republican woes...

... keeps on mounting. This MyDD post summarizes two recent national polls that essentially say that the the Democratic Presidential candidates are running ahead of the Republican candidates, in some cases by huge margins.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Plagiarism in Manitoba Election

The Conservatives are running an anti-crime ad called revolving door you can see here (it's the one on the bottom) . George Bush the elder should sue. He used a similar concept in an ad in 1988 against Michael Dukakis that was also called revolving door (first column of thumbnail images third from the bottom). It has since become a legendary example of dirty politics.

Impending Republican Disaster in 2008

TC wrote a couple of months ago about the possibility of a Democratic blowout in the 2008 elections. Since then the Iraq war has gradually worsened the Republican predicament.

So here is a conservative web site quoting George Will on what 2008 holds for Republicans.

The quote from Will (from ABC's This Week program) is quite amazing:
Stephanopoulos: If this now declared deadline of Gen. Petraeus of September, if the political goals haven't been met by then, do you see large scale Republican defections at that point?

Will: Absolutely. They do not want to have, as they had in 2006, another election on Iraq. George, it took 30, 40 years for the Republican Party to get out from under Herbert Hoover. People would say, "Are you going to vote for Nixon in '60?" "No, I don't like Hoover." The Depression haunted the Republican Party. This could be a foreign policy equivalent of the Depression, forfeiting the Republican advantage they've had since the '68 convention of the Democratic Party and the nomination of [George] McGovern. The advantage Republicans have had on national security matters may be forfeited.

Stephanopoulos: Wow!

There is a link to the video clip (the Will quote is right at the end) on the site as well, plus a gloomy quote from William F. Buckley. All this leads to this comment from Real Clear Politics (a site TC likes for its updated information on U.S. polls):

Even though both Buckley and Will are careful to hedge slightly on their predictions, essentially two of the most respected and smartest minds in conservative politics just declared that the Republican Party will not only suffer greatly in 2008, but that it is in danger of becoming a minority party for generations.

An impending Republican disaster? The gloom and doom foreseen for the Republicans is from the respectable right, not from the loony left.

We may be in for a remarkable transformation. The gradual decline of the Democrats following 1968 was directly linked to Vietnam so there is no reason the same could not hold true for the Republicans over Iraq. No one says so but if a Democratic President and Congress had the nerve to implement a universal publicly administered health care plan while ending the imperial adventures overseas, there could well be a new Democratic era on the scale of the New Deal.