Dave Holmberg: a behind-the-scenes force that helped shape BC politics

Dave Holmberg passed away recently at age 75.  If you do not live in Abbotsford, you may have never heard of him.  To me, he was one of the good guys in BC politics.  Not because we supported the same party, but because he epitomized the healthy convergence between community and politics.

Abbotsford advocate to receive Medal of Good Citizenship

I met Dave in the fall of 1993.  He was supporting a young upstart candidate in an upcoming by-election in Matsqui – a bespectacled, balding country lawyer and school trustee, who was not yet 30 years old.

BC politics was in a time of upheaval.  Gordon Campbell had been elected leader of the BC Liberal Party in September 1993.   He sought a seat in a Vancouver by-election.  Out in Matsqui, erstwhile Social Credit MLA Peter Dueck resigned, setting up a “free enterprise primary” between the declining Socreds and the upstart BC Liberals.  The Socreds had held the seat for decades; the BC Liberals had won seats nearby in the 1991 election.

The BC Liberal nomination in Matsqui was hotly contested.  The young country lawyer faced a polished, downtown Vancouver lawyer who had been an Abbotsford basketball star in his youth.

Dave went all-in on the young country lawyer.  I remember going to the nomination meeting in a high school gym somewhere in deep dark Abbotsford.  The country lawyer and Dave mobilized support, especially in the South Asian community, and pulled off, what was seen from the outside, as an upset. Over 23 years later, Mike de Jong hasn’t looked back, serving as Attorney-General, Forests Minister, Finance Minister, House Leader and a host of other senior roles.

Mike de Jong’s toughest campaign was the first campaign – the by-election.  I was assigned as the party organizer (I was the only party organizer at that time) and I happily volunteered to move out to Matsqui for the duration.  Dave was the campaign manager and, with the good graces of his wife Lee, I moved into his basement for a month.

Dave and his able communications man, Mark Rushton, built a team of strong locals, many who are still involved in the party today, like MLA Darryl Plecas.  There was a feeling in that campaign of optimism and change.  Grace McCarthy had returned to lead the Socreds and because of Dueck’s resignation, she had the opportunity to seek a seat and she took it.  She actually lived in Vancouver but knew she wouldn’t have a chance defeating Campbell there.  She counted on the Socred base in the Fraser Valley to breathe life into the party.

Looking back, we didn’t have the fancy systems you see in campaigns today.  That campaign was a lot of blood and guts, shoe leather and moxie.  While we certainly had a lot of out-of-town campaigners on weekends, there was a strong local core that Dave, Mike, and Mark drew into the campaign.

The campaign itself was exciting and heated.  McCarthy was in the fight of her political life.  We had momentum and could feel it.  We had a great team feeling, with Dave as our campaign leader.  We were all pretty amped up and probably more hopeful than we ought to have been.  Out of 13,000 votes cast, we scraped by with a 42 vote margin.  A win is a win is a win, as they say.

The Matsqui by-election result left a permanent mark.  Grace McCarthy retired from politics and the Social Credit Party effectively died.  In the immediate aftermath, expectations were sky high that the BC Liberals, under Gordon Campbell, would consolidate the free enterprise base.  However, many on the right were not yet ready to join something called ‘Liberal’ nor one that was led by someone who had been mayor of Vancouver months earlier.  In a shocking development (and I mean shocking), Social Credit MLAs Jack Weisgerber, Richard Neufeld, Lyall Hanson, and Len Fox bolted to the BC Reform Party.  BC Reform was basically just a brand.  It was not the same party as Preston Manning’s federal Reform Party that was surging at the time.  But what it offered the four ex-Socreds was a fresh start without having to join the Campbell Liberals.

All of a sudden, there was a new BC political party, with official party status and a brand that resonated.  The push to unite the free enterprise side of the spectrum was thwarted.  Dave, Mike de Jong, Mark, and the local team had pulled off a great win and moved the ball down the field for the BC Liberals, but the Party could not punch the ball in for a touchdown.

A year later, there was another battle in the Valley when one of the two remaining Socred MLAs, Abbotsford MLA Harry de Jong, resigned.  Dave and Mark were at it again, playing a strong behind the scenes role to help elect John van Dongen.  van Dongen won by a few hundred votes over the BC Reform candidate, settling the matter of which party would be the primary force to contest the NDP in the next provincial election, but not quite finishing off BC Reform.  As history shows, the NDP pulled a Trump in 1996 – losing the popular vote and winning the election.  Though that election was a missed opportunity for the BC Liberals, the 1994 and 1995 Fraser Valley byelections played a pivotal role in reshaping the landscape of BC and helped set up the mandates that would follow.  It’s hard to imagine how it would have happened without Dave.

Thinking about Dave the man, he was such a strong personality that you didn’t have to ask who was boss.  He could come across as Jimmy Swaggart at a Richie Brothers auction, but that was an occasional entertaining public persona.   Privately, he could be tough as nails when he needed to be, but always a great friend who was fiercely protective and loyal.  And he was a helluva lot of fun.  I didn’t know what to make of him at the start but, in short order, I came to respect him and enjoy him immensely.

One day, we were just talking about life.  I was a young guy and liked talking to older guys who had some life experience.  This was 1994 and he owned and operated Bobcat Country.  He told me about the 1982 recession and how he almost lost everything – how they would go a month without a phone call at the dealership.  He hung on, he fought, he held it together.  It resonated with me, as my father had endured the same brutal hardships of a recession that we haven’t seen the likes of since.

On the lighter side, it was a cold by-election.  There was a lot of snow, I recall.  I remember getting his goat when he was used as  target practice in the parking lot for snowballs.  There was the time he found great delight after I returned to the campaign office ashen faced from a turkey slaughterhouse tour.  Then there were the endless hijinks with Mark Rushton and the lectures we received from the office manager for the three of us endlessly scheming in the backroom.  And it was very much a smoke-filled backroom.

Political life is full of Dave Holmbergs that get involved for all the right reasons.  There are many outstanding community leaders like Dave I have had the pleasure to meet across BC.  As a young person growing up in politics, I learned so much from these mentors.

It’s also instructive to see what a force Mike de Jong has been in BC politics over the past two decades.  It’s local guys like Dave that are behind leaders like Mike.  He wouldn’t be there without Dave, and he knows it.

The community knows Dave the best.  Holmberg House, a local hospice, was funded out of his family’s generosity and sadness.  Dave’s son and business partner, Dave Jr., succumbed to cancer in 2011. His countless good deeds will be remembered in the community, where it matters, but his impact on politics in BC is one of those unheralded stories that deserved to be told.

See Abbotsford News profile here

See obituary here

Tribute from Abbotsford Hospice Society here

Reflections on RFK, and a brush with history

We’ve seen and read a lot about the 2016 US presidential campaign, and most of it is dispiriting.  My mind has wandered back recently to 1968 where serious issues were tackled by serious candidates in both parties.  Campaigns attacked the issues of 1968 head-on with passion and eloquence.  Like today, it was a campaign no one could have predicted months before and it is a campaign I have revisited many times thanks to my family’s own fleeting connection to RFK during the Oregon primary.

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This autographed campaign poster adorns my office wall, as it did my father’s. Signed by RFK at the Portland Zoo, May 24, 1968. Also signed by Astronaut John Glenn (faded ballpoint).

Senator Robert F. Kennedy sat on the sidelines in late 1967 and early 1968, unwilling to challenge President Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic nomination.   As the Vietnam war deepened during LBJ’s presidency, so did RFK’s opposition but he did not want to be the object of polarization by taking on a sitting president with whom there was mutual enmity.  Instead, Senator Eugene McCarthy (Minnesota) took on the mantle of the anti-war movement and challenged LBJ in the New Hampshire primary, finishing second but succeeding in exposing the President’s vulnerability.  McCarthy was one of those Democrats who caught fire on college campuses and with righteous liberals, like Bernie Sanders.

With a  split in the party now wide open, RFK decided to join the race, launching a frenetic, relentless campaign that would last 82 days.

Within weeks of RFK’s campaign launch, LBJ shocked the nation by announcing he would not stand for re-election.  From March 31st on, RFK was locked in battle with two Minnesotans – the insurgent McCarthy and the establishment choice Vice-President Hubert Humphrey – for delegates to the 1968 Democratic convention to be held in Chicago.

Attacked for his opportunism by McCarthy, and resented by President Johnson and the incumbent Democratic Party establishment, RFK had a difficult path.  He was 42-years old and seen as ruthless and ambitious.  He brought the powerful Kennedy machine, the emotional punch of his brother’s unfulfilled presidency, but most importantly, he brought a fervent passion that matched the temper of the times.

His campaign was launched on the fly.  It did not have a corporate headquarters in Brooklyn or Chicago like the major campaigns of today.  Rather, it was launched out of a cannon, heading to states where primaries were being held and where he still had time to get on the ballot.

Some of the initial events were in Kansas, hardly what we would think of today as fertile Democratic soil, yet 15,000 students jammed the field house at Kansas State University to hear him speak about Vietnam, race, and poverty.  He spoke, he took questions, there were hecklers, there was give and take. He was greeted by throngs at airports and parking lots by people with handmade signs.  He went out of his way to speak on Indian reservations – it was a priority for him, even if it defied conventional political calculus.  His campaign was followed by teams of print reporters following his utterances.  The reporters would know when to board the campaign train or bus as almost every campaign speech closed with a quote from George Bernard Shaw, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

Then, as the campaign turned into April, surprise struck again.  On April 4th, Reverend Martin Luther King was struck down by an assassin’s bullet.  It so happened that RFK was heading toward a rally in Indianapolis where about 1,000 were gathered, mostly from the black community.  When he mounted the platform, he realized that they had not yet heard the news – no text messages or Facebook posts announced the news in those days.  In what was one of his greatest moments he addressed the crowd, without notes, preaching against hatred, lawlessness, and violence, instead pleading for love, wisdom, and compassion.  He spoke about the loss of Rev. King and speaking of the loss of his own brother by an assassin’s bullet.  He quoted Greek philosophers.  This was a man with considerable reach, to draw upon the words in the most volatile of moments.  The video below is riveting.

Indiana was pivotal for RFK.  It was not a natural constituency for his campaign.  The Governor ran as a ‘favourite son’ candidate and had been the proxy for LBJ.  He was backed by the major newspapers which ran negative Kennedy stories incessantly.  McCarthy was also on the ballot and had his constituency of anti-war Democrats and college students.  RFK stitched together a coalition of working-class whites and the black community, while tailoring his message to resonate with Indiana’s inherent conservative values.  By the end of the Indiana campaign, the Kennedy motorcade would slowly drive through towns waving to crowds on the side of the road.  His body-man would spend the entire day kneeling on the convertible’s back seat holding Kennedy while he leaned forth to shake hands.  The campaign threaded the needle and the primary was won.  Where JFK had settled on West Virginia as the narrative bedrock for his successful campaign, Indiana took on that role for RFK.

The campaign ultimately led to Oregon, a key primary state voting May 28th, one week before the massive California primary.  Back in 1968, with fewer primary states, the California primary was extremely important, unlike today when the presidential primaries are essentially wrapped up by June.

The Kennedy campaign struggled in Oregon.  It did not generate the passion and enthusiasm seen in other places.  Crowds were polite and calm.  Things were a little too good in Oregon to be ruffled by the anxiety and anger seething in other places in America.  Senator McCarthy had traction and RFK was having difficulty keeping pace.

This is where the McDonald family from Haney, BC enters the picture.  My father, Peter, organized (or rather, schemed) a family vacation down to Portland to coincide with the Oregon primary.  The McDonald family (my parents, three sisters, and brother) crossed paths with the Kennedy family at the Portland Zoo on May 25, 1968.

I have heard the stories many times over the years from my parents and my older siblings. Their recollections provide an innocent glimpse into presidential campaigning in stark contrast to the events that unfolded a week later.

My siblings have remarked that the zoo wasn’t very busy that day and access to RFK was fairly easy – security was present, but not intrusive.  There were handshakes and photos while the Kennedy family walked about the zoo.  My sister Julia recalls that RFK said to her, “Is this your autograph book little girl?”  She responded, “Yes.  We live in Canada, but if we lived in the United States, my Dad would vote for you.” Family lore also suggests that my brother, Ian, was kissed on the forehead by RFK.  Here are some McDonald family photos:

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Ethel Kennedy in foreground, RFK chatting with voters (Julia McDonald scrapbook collection)

Not only was the Kennedy family campaigning, so was famous astronaut John Glenn.  Glenn, who died this week at age 95, signed autographs and urged support for Kennedy.  My sisters remember him as a class act.

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My father collected my sisters together to meet Glenn.  He asked where they were from and when hearing they were from Canada, my sister Julia recalls that he said he enjoyed hunting in Canada.  Julia says that my mother’s recollection is that he told them to
study Science but attributes that to motherly-spin.

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A great UPI photo of the Kennedy’s framed by a cooperative elephant. Michigan scholar Paul Lee notes that RFK has a rose pinned to his lapel, in honour of Portland – the “City of roses”

At some point, Kennedy was on the move toward the train that runs through the zoo.  My father managed to get alongside him while they were on a staircase heading in that direction.  Here is my dad, 35 years old, and having spent the 1960s as a very active volunteer for the Liberal Party.  He was switched-on to politics, big time.  He avidly followed the campaigns of Stevenson-Eisenhower, Nixon-JFK, Pearson-Diefenbaker, and was a delegate to the Convention that elected Pierre Trudeau.  He managed campaigns, served as municipal councillor, and would soon be a provincial candidate.  Add to that the atmosphere of upheaval in the US with the Vietnam War, the assassination of Martin Luther King a month earlier, and the rising voice of Baby Boomer student protest… What a moment!

So, here he was, Pete from Haney, on the stairwell with RFK.   Family folklore advises me that the following happened.

Peter: “Senator Kennedy, I’m a big fan of yours… I’m from Canada”.

RFK: “Who the F8#k caahhhhhs”.

That may not be verbatim, but it’s close.  RFK could be a little impatient.

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RFK in front row with John Glenn and Ethel Kennedy

Despite this terse brush off (well, it can be argued my Dad was in the way of actual Oregon voters),  RFK and his family continued to the train with the McDonald family, undeterred, in hot pursuit.  My family boarded the same zoo train as the Kennedy’s.  As the train went around a bend, Ethel leaned out and looked backwards and waved to may family’s car near the back of the train.  My sister Sara, then 11 years old, said “It felt like she was waving at us and we waved back.  It was a big deal!”  As the train slowly made its way around the zoo, it was about to collide with another force – the McCarthy campaign.

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Senator Eugene McCarthy

Senator McCarthy came to the zoo looking to challenge RFK to a debate.  McCarthy was leading in the primary and had RFK on the defensive.  As the train came to a stop, nervous Kennedy aides briefed their candidate that McCarthy was on the prowl and seeking a confrontation.  An alert family member heard RFK say, “Let’s get the F*#k out of here”.  My mother, Helen, recollects that the Kennedys literally disappeared in a cloud of dust, bodies everywhere sprinting to their motorcade.  Sister Sara remembers Kennedy supporter Rafer Johnson, a US Olympian, scooping up Ethel and running with her in his arms to the motorcade and “threw her (as in really threw her)” into the car.

McCarthy missed Kennedy but jumped on the media bus, which was still parked at the curb, and took full advantage of the hasty departure by holding court with the national press.  McCarthy went on to defeat Kennedy in the Oregon primary on May 28, 1968.

The McDonald family, no doubt exhilarated by this brush with fame and power, finished up its brief Oregon vacation and headed north up the I-5 back to sleepy Haney.  A week later, they awoke to the news that Robert Kennedy had been slain in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after triumphing in the June 4th California primary.  My mother recalls my then 7-year old sister, Sylvia, saying, “But how can he be dead when he was so alive?”

Six months after the assassination, Ethel Kennedy gave birth to her daughter Rory, on December 12th, 1968.  My mother gave birth to me the next day on December 13th.  Born hours apart, worlds apart, but connected for a few brief moments on the campaign trail at the Portland Zoo.

Unlike me, Rory did not have the privilege of knowing a father.  And America will never know what could have become of the unfulfilled promise of Robert F. Kennedy, president or otherwise.

** UPDATE ** 

Since writing my blog post, I had the honour of receiving correspondence from Paul Lee, a scholar based in Highland Park, Michigan.  Paul writes that he is working on a book on Bobby Kennedy’s “remarkable relationship” with non-“white” peoples.  In his words, he is making the “critical interpretation of archival/historical photos, videos and sound recordings” a major part of his research.

He kindly forward additional information from that day at the Portland Zoo, including a 41-second black and white video and the UPI photo shown above.  The video includes the visit from Senator McCarthy.

Paul brought to my attention that it was US Olympian Rafer Johnson who scooped up Ethel and carried her to the motorcade to evade Senator McCarthy.  Our family recollection was that it was Rosey Grier, but I have corrected the record above thanks to Paul’s research.

I have been asked about the curt exchange between RFK and my father.  This was considered out of character.  However, having known my mother for 48 years, I am pretty certain that she has the straight goods on this one.  It seems Bobby was just having a bad day… it happens!

Thanks to Paul for his contributions.  He has various RFK videos posted on his YouTube channel.

The Aftermath:

Old newspapers from June 1968: the Vancouver Sun, the Vancouver Province, and Life Magazine:

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Kennedy campaign brochure:

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More Background:

Video: Kennedy and Glenn on the hustings in Oregon with a voiceover of one of Kennedy’s famous speeches during the campaign:

There are many excellent books about the 1968 campaign.

Two books focus solely on the Kennedy campaign.  Witcover details the behind-the-scenes action leading up to, and taking place throughout the Kennedy campaign.  Clarke captures the passion and excitement of the campaign trail.

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Theodore H. White defined presidential campaign reporting and his 1968 edition covers both parties in detail.

This 1960 edition is viewed as one of the most important political books of the 20th century.

 

 

 

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Joe McGinnis wrote this seminal work on how Nixon adapted modern advertising techniques to shape his candidacy.  Nixon’s comeback after losing in 1960 and losing again in the 1962 California gubernatorial race was well-planned.

The key person behind Nixon’s strategy? Roger Ailes, late of Fox News.  Thanks to Dick Drew, former owner of CKAY Radio in Duncan, BC, for recommending this book to me.

 

Julia’s scrapbook:

And finally, the full Julia McDonald scrapbook view.  The giraffe gets a lot of attention:

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Two maps: the cultural divide in the US and UK

There has been much discussion about the ‘divides’ in the US election.  Race, gender, and income status all play a part.  I would add a cultural divide between Cities and beyond the Cities, which revealed itself in the US election and also in Brexit.  In both elections, the popular vote was very close nation-wide but very concentrated (either way) at the local levels.

US presidential results by County:

Democrats mainly concentrated in big cities and university districts with notable exceptions of black and hispanic voting clusters, and some rural Democrats (eg. Vermont).  In Democratic states like Washington, Oregon, and Illinois, you see the polarization where most of the geography went Trump while the major cities went with Hillary.

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Brexit results:

Focusing on England itself, it was London (Remain) versus the countryside and regional cities (Leave).

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Source: Vancouver Sun

Trump can win, but Hillary will win (not!)

UPDATE, The Morning After:

After laying out all the reasons why Trump could win (for months and months), I blatantly ignored that evidence and confidently predicted (below) a decisive Clinton victory.  The power of conventional wisdom and the ‘echo chamber’ was never greater than the past week in US election politics, only to be overcome by the voters who ultimately decide.  For a matter of minutes, each voter is in charge – in the privacy of the voting booth. Each voter is equal – a single mother in Michigan or retiree in Pennsylvania has the same weight as a Hollywood celebrity or Wall Street trader.  And the voters have proved, again, that they are very much in charge.

ORIGINAL POST:

Can Trump win?  That’s the question on everyone’s mind.

Yes he can – he has a pathway.  But I’m betting that Hillary Clinton will be the 45th President of the United States and it won’t be that close.  In fact, I have put my money where my mouth is by betting $5 through BC Lottery Corporation’s online election pool (expires at 4pm Tuesday).

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45th and 42nd Presidents of the USA

First, a few starting points to consider when watching the results:

  1. It takes 270 electoral votes to win.  Just because a candidate wins the popular vote doesn’t mean they win the electoral college.  Clinton gaining a higher popular vote in Texas or running up the margin in California is meaningless in terms of electoral votes.  She needs to win states.
  2. There has been a lot of early voting in places like Florida, where early turnout was much higher than 2012 and mostly before the FBI bombshell.  That mitigates late-campaign swings to some extent.
  3. The electoral map is always in a state of flux.  In 1960, the GOP won California and Washington and the Democrats won Texas and most of the South.  This election, we will see some states switch allegiances (in both directions) compared to recent elections.
  4. No candidate in recent memory has been as much of a disruptor as Donald Trump.  He is using social media as blunt-force trauma compared to Hillary Clinton’s better-resourced, data-driven approach.  Trump has ‘macro-targeted’ and his winning scenario is moving non-university degree white voters en masse.
  5. How many times have we been surprised lately?  Justin Trudeau’s majority, NDP in Alberta, Jeremy Corbyn as UK Labour leader (twice), David Cameron’s majority then Brexit, the rise of Bernie, and the rise of Trump.  The people will make up their own mind, thank you very much.  Many voters simply don’t cooperate with polls.  Will ‘cranky won’t says’ make the difference?  That would be good for Trump.

The best available information

Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina says the Democrats have run 63,000 simulations every night since Obama’s first run for president.  The data available to the Democrats and the GOP is the product of hundreds of millions, if not, billions of dollars of investment.  The public polls may be indicative but, obviously, not wholly reliable.  This is why we mere mortals often get surprised.

Let’s take a look at the work of those trying to figure this out.

> Nate Silver 538 “Odds in HRC’s favour”

Nate Silver’s 538 website has closely tracked public polls.  He puts the odds at 71.9% Clinton, who he predicts will win about 302 electoral votes.  The New York Times ‘Upshot’ has Clinton’s odds at 84%.

In Silver’s winding road to victory graphic, Clinton crosses 270 in New Hampshire and pads the margin with Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, and the Maine 2nd district.

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> Real Clear Politics “Uncomfortably Close”

Real Clear Politics has Clinton at 203, Trump at 164, and Toss-Ups at 171.  When pushed into a “No Toss Ups” map, RCP has the margin at an incredibly close 272-266.

Huh?  Isn’t Clinton supposed to be further ahead?  RCP has Trump edging Clinton in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, and Arizona.  New Hampshire is in RCP’s Clinton column but has been flipping and flopping all week like a halibut sun bathing on a Boston Whaler.

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Here is the most recent State polling data on Real Clear Politics:

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> USC/LA Times Poll “The Outlier”

This nightly tracking poll (via online panel) has been a consistent outlier for months.   If Trump wins, they are geniuses – they have been about 4-5 points to Trump’s favour consistently compared to most pollsters.  This poll does provide a view of campaign momentum.  The RNC convention (7/25), subsequent self-induced Trump collapse (8/12), Clinton health scare (9/17), Billy Bush tape (10/17), and post FBI surge (today).

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Trump’s pathway

Building on my blog post last week (“Can Hillary lose? Not easily“), here are my revised prognostications going into Tuesday night.

The pathway for Trump to win 270 electoral college votes is not easy.  It would look something like this:

  1. Win all of Romney’s states (206).  Right now, he is forecasted to do that but has been vulnerable in North Carolina (15) and Arizona (11).  He seems to be pulling away in Arizona but NC is a toss up.  Utah is another wildcard where independent Evan McMullin has been in shouting distance of Trump.
  2. Consolidate consistent leads in Obama states (24).  Trump has been leading for a while in two states where Obama triumphed in 2012 – Ohio (18) and Iowa (6).  Now he’s up to 230 total votes with steps #1 and #2.
  3. Win Florida (29).  It would be very, very hard for Trump to win the White House without this state.  The polls are close.  Running total: 259.
  4. Find (11) votes from the following: New Hampshire (4), Maine 2nd district (1), and Nevada (6).  That’s 270 right there in Steps 1-4.  This is very similar to the RCP map above that has Trump at 266 – it’s just missing New Hampshire.
  5. Hail Mary scenario – If Trump’s carpet bombing of previously considered safe Democrat states succeeds, it changes the calculation: Pennsylvania (20) and Colorado (9) could add to or replace Florida’s 29 votes; Michigan (16) or Wisconsin (11) would replace or add to the smaller states in #4 above.  This would be white voters (college education or less) turning out “big time”.  This scenario is a tall order, indeed.

My prediction

I have unreliable data like the rest of you.  So this comes down to a gut feeling. Trump will not win all of the Romney states.  I believe he will lose North Carolina due to my perception of Clinton’s organizational advantage.  I’m shaky on that prediction, but I’m going with it.

Further, I believe Clinton will win Florida due to early voting and organization.  Nevada should also be in Clinton’s column.

Therefore, Trump has 191 Romney votes, plus gains in Ohio (18) and Iowa (6), and I will throw in New Hampshire (4) for a total of 219 votes to Clinton’s 319.  My sense is that the FBI-induced fever that plagued Clinton over the past week broke over the weekend.  Her campaign’s inherent strengths and Trump’s weakness with non-white voters will be a deciding factor in close races.  It will take an uprising in states where there is a higher proportion of white voters to elect Trump, IMHO. I’m betting the surprise on election night will be the size of Hillary Clinton’s margin of electoral votes, not a Trump win.

On Election night, channel flip over to Global TV’s BC1 news channel.  I will be speaking to results with Global’s Keith Baldrey throughout the evening.

The Rosedeer Prediction Map:

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How Utah could elect Trump-Kaine to the White House

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Presidential Wildcard?

Have you ever heard of Evan McMullin?  He’s an independent candidate for president running in Utah and he has a chance of winning the state.  Mormons are not huge fans of Donald Trump.  Top Mormon-Republicans Mitt Romney and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman have openly opposed Trump.

The 40-year old McMullin is a former Republican staffer and former CIA operative. Born and raised in Utah, and a BYU graduate, he can certainly make the claim that he’s a home-grown, Mormon candidate. He likes to say that he was fighting terrorists while Donald Trump was judging beauty pageants.

The latest controversy in Utah is that a white-nationalist group has sent robocall messages into Utah attacking McMullin saying he has a lesbian mother and “two mommies”.  He’s firing back at the RNC and Utah Republicans for supporting these types of attacks (which the RNC has disavowed).  The GOP does, however, see him as a hurdle they need to overcome.

Utah only has 6 electoral votes, so why is it important?

In a very close election, McMullin’s victory in Utah could deny Trump a majority in the electoral college.

Today, RealClearPolitics “no toss up” map forecasts 273 votes for Clinton/Kaine and 265 for Trump/Pence (the inclusion of VP candidates in this discussion is important, further down).

Based on the map below, if Colorado swings to Trump, he would have 274 votes to Clinton’s 264.  However, if Utah goes with McMullin instead of Trump, then it would be: Trump/Pence 268, Clinton/Kaine 264, and McMullin 6. No candidate would reach the magic number of 270 required.

Map: RealClearPolitics “no toss up” forecast (November 2)

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No majority?  Then what happens?

This is where it gets really interesting under the 12th Amendment.  The House of Representatives then elects the president and the only candidates eligible are those that received electoral colleges votes: Trump, Clinton, and McMullin in this scenario.

But it’s not a one member, one vote scenario.  Rather, each state’s delegation receives one vote.  California = Vermont in terms of voting strength.  Crazy rules but they’re stuck with them.

The  Republicans will most likely have a majority in more states than the Democrats .  Representatives can vote for any of the three candidates so it’s highly likely Trump would become president, even if Hillary won more electoral votes (but less than 270).

However, the House is only voting for president, not vice-president.  The Senate elects the vice-president.

There is a reasonable likelihood that the Dems could control the Senate.  Or there could be a tie (in which case Vice President Joe Biden would break the tie since he would still be in office).  RealClearPolitics has the Senate at 47 Dem; 46 GOP and seven toss-ups today.  Thus, there could be a split ticket.  Imagine Trump-Kaine.

In a further constitutional fantasy scenario, House Republicans could choose the ‘real’ conservative, McMullin, and catapult him to the presidency.  Highly, highly improbable, but not unconstitutional.

Another possibility: Faithless Electors

Some states do not require their electors (that comprise the electoral college) to vote for the presidential candidate with the highest popular vote in their state.  In practice, they almost always do.  There have been cases of an elector going astray – a Washington Republican voted for Reagan instead of Ford in 1976, a Minnesota Democrat voted for John Edwards instead of John Kerry.  But those stray votes were not material to the outcome.

It is possible that some electors could abandon their candidate and go another way.  The pressure on them would be massive if they did so, and, indeed, very contrary to the wishes of the voters.

In the final analysis, I think Hillary is going to win though it’s getting pretty uncomfortable, and moreso since my last post.

Yet, as Al Gore knows, anything can happen even after the votes are counted.

 

ps.  A fictional account of electoral college machinations was written by US political journalist Jeff Greenfield in his book “The People’s Choice”.  A good read for inveterate political junkies.

Can Hillary lose? Not easily.

For some months I have sounded the alarm bells that Donald Trump could win the presidency in spite of breaking every rule of conventional politics.  Every time I second guess that opinion, he roars back with another lunge to the throat of the Clinton campaign.

Map: RealClearPolitics “no toss ups” map (October 31)

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Today, RealClearPolitics has it at 304 Clinton, 234 Trump.  This is a significant improvement for Trump over last week.  Nate Silver has upped his odds of a Trump win to about 1 in 5. But of course, this is based on polling data – and there is a litany of polling debacles in recent years.

So what does the map need to look like for Hillary to lose

  • Trump needs to hold all Romney states

Mitt Romney had 206 electoral votes (with 270 required to win).  Right now, Clinton is leading in North Carolina and Arizona, where Romney had prevailed.  If Clinton, holds the lead in those states then Trump is almost certainly finished.

  • Trump needs to add 64 electoral votes from Obama states.

Trump has consistently led in Ohio, which Obama won twice.  That’s 18 votes.  He is close in Iowa (6) and, now, RealClearPolitics has a GOP advantage in Florida (29).  There’s 53 new votes combined.  He may pick up one vote in Maine (1) where it’s one of two states that is not a winner-take-all state.  When added to Romney totals, that’s 260.

The final 10 votes are the hardest.

  • The next closest state would be Nevada, which only has 6 votes, but add Colorado (9) and that puts Trump over the top.  Polling shows that both states are within 4 points.
  • Or, one of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota or Wisconsin.  Polling shows Trump about 6 points off in these states.

It’s not impossible, though it is unlikely. The polling shifts become less and less relevant due to early voting.  Trump leads in Florida but many Floridians have already voted, perhaps locking in a Clinton victory.  Secondly, Clinton has a much stronger ground game. That may make the difference alone.  But Trump supporters have zeal which is a hard thing to measure.  He has defied conventional wisdom and we don’t know how bad (or good) the upcoming week will be for Clinton.  Just when I thought Trump was finished, he continues to haunt this campaign.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe says not to “fret and wet”, that Hillary has a solid 300 votes, and that there is a 100% chance she will win.  So there’s that.

Table 1: Trump pathway to 270

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Holding Romney states (tall order) plus winning states (and districts) where Trump currently leads in the polls equals 260 votes.

Hillary is in a strong position but it is uncomfortably close.

And finally, for reference…

Table 2: US presidential elections since WWII

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1991: The election that transformed BC politics

Twenty-five years ago, British Columbians went to the polls on October 17, 1991 and changed BC politics in more ways than one.

It was the election of Premier Mike Harcourt’s NDP government and only the second time in BC history that the NDP had gained power. The election was hugely significant for the NDP as they governed for a decade. But its longer-term impact was the realignment of the free enterprise vote in BC.

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Gordon Wilson, BC Liberal leader in 1991 breakthrough election.

The Social Credit Party had governed for 36 of the previous 39 years, mostly with a Bennett at the helm. It had renewed itself during the first NDP term of office in the 1970s and emerged stronger under WR Bennett with a broader base of support. Bennett had revived the Socred coalition by attracting Liberals, Conservatives, and even an NDP MLA to run with him in 1975. The renewed coalition was maintained for three elections (1975, 1979 and 1983) in the most polarized elections in BC history. When the Social Credit chose a new leader in 1986, they chose Bill Vander Zalm. While he led the Socreds victory one more time, their coalition would unravel under his premiership.

Starting in the early 1980s, a small group of Liberals worked to revive the provincial wing. From virtually no candidates in 1979, they ran close to a full slate in 1983 under leader Shirley McLaughlin, with parachutes attached to many Young Liberals. They garnered about 3%. Most federal Liberals (and they were a vanishing species at that time) were supporting the Social Credit Party.

Undaunted, Liberals held a leadership convention in 1984 where former Member of Parliament Art Lee, the first Chinese-Canadian leader of a political party in BC, defeated Stan Roberts, who would go on to help establish the Reform Party of Canada. Lee would build a strong relationship with Liberal Party of Canada leader John Turner, who represented Vancouver-Quadra, and BC’s Iona Campagnolo who was president of the Liberal Party of Canada.   “A Liberal is a Liberal is a Liberal” was a mantra I heard at my first political convention in 1985 as a keen 16-year old.

When Bill Vander Zalm called the October 1986 election, Art Lee fielded a team of candidates across the province. There was no TV leaders debate and little money so it was hard for Lee to make an impact. Rather, Vander Zalm’s charisma trumped NDP Leader Bob Skelly’s opening press conference flutter. The Liberals were squeezed out, but doubled their vote to about 7%. Hopes for a seat were dashed as they were shut out of the Legislature. Art Lee stepped down. On election night, BCTV cruelly reported that Art Lee was going to win his seat. Bedlam erupted at Liberal HQ. Out in Maple Ridge where I was stationed, we piled into cars and headed in for the ‘party’. Somewhere around the Sperling interchange, CKNW reported that someone had made an error and Art Lee was 5th! Cheers turned to tears at the Liberal election night party at the Plaza 500. I ran into my new friend Christy Clark there. We had joined the SFU Young Liberal Club that month.

By the time the BC Liberals got around to choosing a new leader on Hallowe’en Day 1987, there was only one candidate – Gordon Wilson. A political unknown to most, he had at least been elected to local office on the Sunshine Coast and put up a respectable showing there in the 1986 election. He was an outsider to the Vancouver-centric Liberal Party in BC. Yet he showed up and took on the mantle.

The focus for Liberals in BC during that time was federal politics with an election looming in 1988. While Wilson sought to get established, the Vander Zalm government started its meltdown. Ministers and MLAs would resign from cabinet and/or resign their seats. Around this time, a group of free enterprise supporters, mostly Liberals I think, sought to encourage Jack Poole (Chair of the 2010 Olympics) to take over the BC Liberal leadership as a response to the Social Credit implosion. While this is truly a story for another day, Poole would go through a due diligence effort, assisted by former leader Gordon Gibson, but ultimately decided not to seek the leadership. Gordon Wilson, who had reluctantly cooperated with the Poole potential candidacy, ventured forth unfettered when Poole left the scene. No one gave him much of a chance.

Wilson’s leadership in 1989 and 1990 could be described as persistent and tenacious, but also was met with setbacks. Byelection results were disappointing while the party was in a constant financial crisis. Federal politics intervened again as Jean Chretien succeeded John Turner in June 1990 after a lengthy leadership campaign.   One issue where Wilson and Chretien had common ground was over the Meech Lake Accord. Wilson was as a strong critic and aligned with Manitoba Liberal leader Sharon Carstairs and Newfoundland Premier Clyde Wells on the issue. This was a very divisive issue within the Liberal Party of Canada, but Wilson made a name for himself on this issue. However, the relationship with the Chretien team would become increasingly uneasy.

I was part of a group that believed, for some years, that the Party should split into separate federal and provincial political parities. The “BC Liberal Party” needed to be strictly provincial and put BC first on issues. During the Turner years, the party membership did not want to make the move, in part out of respect for Turner. However, by 1991, the provincial wing believed it was in their political interests, and the federal wing believed it was in its financial interests. At a convention in Spring 1991, the parties decided to split. This was a defining moment in BC political history. Had this not happened, the BC Liberal Party could not have emerged as a “big tent” political party. It was hard enough to attract non-Liberals to the BC Liberal Party in the 1990s, but it would have been impossible if the provincial party was not independent.

There is no greater boost for an opposition party than an imploding government. With many Socreds absolutely ruling out going to the NDP, and some NDP voters open to a liberal option (as they would never go Socred), the opportunity presented itself.

A core group of party supporters decided to give it one last push. If we couldn’t break through this time, there was no hope for the BC Liberal Party ever. We had no money and not much of an organization. But we did have a leader who was quick on his feet and would work day and night to succeed, and we started to draw some candidates that helped with credibility. My volunteer job was to find candidates with my pal Christy. There were good, young candidates in some places, like Speaker Linda Reid who was elected 25 years ago and ever since, and Gary Collins who won in Fort Langley. But we had many gaps, so when it came to candidate recruitment, I would find them, Christy would close them. During this time there was an epic road trip, borrowing Clive Tanner’s van, to Prince George, the Cariboo, Kamloops, and the Okanagan. Again, this is truly a story for another day.

We ended up with candidates in 71 of 75 ridings (I’m still mad about Prince George). That was enough to argue that Gordon Wilson should be on the debate. Of course, we were shut out of the debate because the NDP and Socreds didn’t want us there. So we launched a protest and had picketers in front of the CBC building. The pressure built and the network capitulated. We could not have asked for a better scenario – to have to fight to get on the debate and then to win the fight.

On debate night, party president Floyd Sully invited me to go to the CBC studios with him and be part of the team with Gordon Wilson. We showed up in his dressing room. I will never forget how calm he was. He was walking around, shirt off, listening but focused – his mind was elsewhere. Very calm. He had experience as an actor, which likely helped his preparation. I’m sure we were chattering away with miscellaneous advice that was completely off point and I’m sure he disregarded it. His media aide, John Stewart, prepared for the onslaught as there was a much bigger media hoard back then. Though the media didn’t know then that Gordon Wilson would be the story of the night and the election.

We watched the debate in the dressing room while it took place down the hall with no audience. When Premier Rita Johnston and Mike Harcourt were squabbling back and forth, Wilson nailed them: “This is a classic example of why nothing ever gets done in the Province of British Columbia”. Boom! I don’t think the media realized the impact of that line but they did realize that Wilson had made an impact. We were giddy in the dressing room. Floyd and I sprinted down the hall to the studio. I remember passing Mike Harcourt in the hall, “Hey, how are you” I think he said. Disciplined, cheerful, seemingly unruffled. Rita Johnston didn’t look too happy. Wilson was surrounded in the studio. He would never turn down a media interview after begging for attention for years. We were excited.

I had had this feeling once before when I helped the Manitoba Liberals in the 1988 election – the feeling of everything coming up roses. Sharon Carstairs had risen from one seat to almost win the election, settling for 20 and preventing Gary Filmon from forming a majority. Could this be the same? It was definitely on my mind that we could get on a roll, big time. There wasn’t a lot of time left in the election either.

Floyd and I thought we should head back to Party headquarters at 210 West Broadway. The office was closed so we walked in and our six-line switchboard was lighting up like a Christmas tree. We took calls, offers of help, crazies, you name it. We had finally been noticed.

An interesting thing about the 1991 campaign was that BCTV commissioned and ran nightly polls. While it continues to lead the ratings now as Global, back then it really dominated. Tony Parsons would come on at 6pm and they would announce the new numbers in their daily poll. The poll was probably a methodological disaster, but once the debate happened our numbers spiked. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Each good poll begat higher polling numbers the next time. As we rose, the Socreds became doomed. The Socred coalition was built on winnability. It became clear within days that the Liberals would be the party that would challenge the NDP.

As we headed into Thanksgiving weekend, there was a real likelihood we could win. The momentum seemed unstoppable. I remember talking on the phone with Clive Tanner, who was running in Saanich North & the Island and would win decisively. We speculated about forming government. At that point, Clive, who was in the bathtub, contemplated electrocuting himself.

The NDP appeared to get a grip and turned their guns on us. Glen Clark showed his fangs and attacked our platform. A hastily organized press conference where Gordon Wilson and Floyd Sully (who had run and served as Finance critic) costed our platform was necessary. Vaughn Palmer provided a dose of the first scrutiny our campaign had had. Up until the final week, no one thought we had a chance so no one cared if our plan made sense or who our candidates were. I think I can safely say that many of our candidates would not have survived a modern-day social media screening process.

Around that time, I was driving up Kingsway in Vancouver and came across Glen Clark’s campaign office. I walked in to collect some brochures. I was greeted by a receptionist (best practices) and was quickly identified as “undecided”. I was directed to a table of brochures and within 20 seconds I had Glen Clark interrogating me. “Hey, how are you? Undecided? Want a coffee?” Here he was in a safe seat and he was working for every vote. Of course, I folded like a cheap lawn chair from Zellers. I confessed my true identity and Glen switched gears to quiz me on Floyd Sully, who he debated on finance issues. “What’s he like? He seems intense.” Etc. In any event, that gives a glimpse how hungry the NDP were.

We had come from zero to somewhere. By the time Election Day arrived, I don’t think we thought we were going to win. But I did think something would happen, but how much, I didn’t know. I would have been happy with four seats. That was always our dream, to just get a toehold. It’s quite something to look at history and conventional wisdom then use your eyes and ears to understand what’s happening right in front of you.

In the final week of the campaign, Christy and I transitioned over to the Sunshine Coast to help the leader with his local campaign. He had to win and we were there to help. On October 17th at 8pm, we watched the first tranche of early results in Sechelt where it looked like we would be Opposition and would eclipse the Socreds. Gordon Wilson was up in Powell River. By the time the votes were all tallied up, we won 17 seats and 33% of the vote. We won historically liberal seats on the North Shore and west side of Vancouver, but we also took Saanich North, Richmond, South Delta, South Surrey, most of the Fraser Valley, and Kelowna. Places where Liberals had no business winning, usually.

It was clear that it would be quite a party that night. While Wilson flew down to Vancouver to address supporters, a crew of us from the Sunshine Coast were taken on a chartered boat over to Horseshoe Bay. It was a calm, warm night, cruising on moonlit waters before everything would change.

Volunteers from West Van picked us up in station wagons and drove us to the Villa Hotel in Burnaby. It was electric. My best friend Iain, who is a big guy, was drafted to bring Wilson into the room with another big guy, Jim. Peter Gzowski would comment on the “two gorillas” that brought the skinny, bookish professor, Gordon Wilson, into the frenzy.

There was a grumpy old guy named Dick Kirby who was from Oak Bay. He was the most hard-working, dedicated volunteer you would ever find. I will never forget walking into that ballroom and seeing Dick and everything we had worked for was in his eyes. When you are part of an underdog team that overcomes the odds like that, it is a really special bond. But when you add in the unselfishness of a guy like Dick Kirby, it is a joyful moment.   I will never forget that.

That’s where the story should end. It’s a good story.

Euphoria doesn’t last. Hard political choices are ultimately made. Organizations that can skate by for 28 days cannot sustain years of grinding unless they change. The BC Liberals had to decide what it wanted to be if it wanted to govern. It would go through a tough process between 1991 and 1993, when it elected Gordon Campbell to succeed Gordon Wilson. It would go through another tough process between 1993 and 1996 when it failed to win. It would go through a brutal five-year process from 1996 to 2001 when the NDP tanked, but waited until the fifth year of the mandate to go to the polls. It was a long decade. During that time, a modern political party was built one meeting at a time, one chicken-dinner fundraiser at a time, one local parade at a time, one vote at a time. The old saying comes to mind – the worst day in government is better than the best day in opposition. The hard work paid off with the greatest election win in BC history when the BC Liberals won 77 of 79 seats in the 2001 election.

Since 1991 the Party has changed and evolved. It has become a successful, modern political party that has taken a big-tent approach. Gordon Wilson created the opportunity. Gordon Campbell built the foundation, in painstaking fashion, and cemented it as the free enterprise coalition through eight grinding years in Opposition and three successive winning elections. Christy Clark renewed it and earned her own term, tapping into the 1991 experience, knowing that conventional wisdom can be defied, that the ultimate connection for leaders is with the voters, not the intermediaries, and that believing in oneself and the team around you is essential.

All three BC Liberal leaders – Wilson, Campbell, Clark – also teach us that it’s bloody hard work to create, build, and renew. I’m honoured to have served all three. And I’m honoured to have worked alongside those beyond the headlines that made it possible. It’s been quite a journey.

 

Footnote:

Former MLA Wilf Hurd, who was elected in 1991, recently put an anthology of recollections together that marked this historic election and how it happened – “On the Edge of the Ledge – Rise of the BC Liberal Party 1986-1991”. Vaughn Palmer reviewed it here.