Can Trump still win?

It’s hard to imagine a worse stretch for Donald Trump than what has transpired since the DNC Convention.  In my most recent blog post, I raised the spectre of a Trump presidency based on a 7-point lead in the USC-LA Times rolling-track poll.  I went on CKNW 98 with Michael Smyth and talked about the importance of not underestimating Trump’s chances.  The threat might almost seem to many like a moot point now.  That’s a dangerous assumption.  I still believe that Trump can win – it’s not likely that he will win, but he could win.  Despite his egregious campaigning, his poll numbers could be a lot worse.

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The USC-LA Times poll has a big sample (over 2000) and runs on a rolling track so that there’s fresh interviews every night, with the most recent night replacing the results from 7 days previous.  Compared to other polls, this polls has been among the most friendly to Trump (other polls have Clinton up, on average, 7 points).  Right now, USC-LA Times has the race tied whereas Trump had opened a seven point lead following the RNC Convention.

Perhaps the USC-LA Times has a built -in skew, which can happen in online panels, but what it does tell us is the trend and who has moved the hardest toward Clinton.  In that respect, the answer is resoundingly women.

Chart 1: Female voters

Since July 26, Clinton has broadened her lead among women from one point to thirteen (50-37).

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Chart 2: Male voters

Despite Trump’s self-inflicted bad press, his support is remarkably resilient among men.  In fact, he hasn’t lost any support since July 26, holding at 52%.  Clinton has moved up from 37% to 39%.

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Trump’s support among white voters is also largely unchanged.  He’s down about one point since July 26 while Clinton is up 2.  Trump couldn’t do any worse with African-Americans so he’s constant there, getting absolutely blown out.  Hispanics and “Other ethnicity” (not White, African-American, or Hispanic) have shown movement away from him.

Chart 3:  Hispanic voters

Clinton has broadened her lead from 52%-36% to 59%-31%.  That’s a twelve point gain.

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Chart 4: Other Ethnicity

Trump had a sizeable lead on July 26 among this group but Clinton has now closed the gap, moving the numbers from 59% – 33% to a dead heat at 46% each.  One can easily speculate that the controversy with the family of the Muslim-American war hero precipitated this change.

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So how could Trump still win?

Narrow geographic pathway.  Trump must hold all of Romney’s states (a tall order) and win Florida, Ohio, and either Pennsylvania or Michigan.  He has been neck and neck in Florida and Ohio, and further behind in the latter two.  He’s banking on his message of economic alienation working among traditional Democratic voters.  It was going to be a narrow pathway for any Republican – Rubio, Cruz, Bush, Kasich or anyone else.

Clinton’s unpopularity.  As poorly as Trump has seemed to perform in the past ten days, Americans are not crazy about Hillary Clinton either.  Certainly, she has had an upswing, particularly with women, but she remains a juicy target for the Republicans.

Time.  Trump has lots of it.  Three months is a political eternity.  If he continues to death spiral, some speculate he might not even make it to November.  I wouldn’t rule it out, but the more likely scenario is that he regroups.

Stabilize.  Just a little less craziness would be a big momentum builder for the campaign.  Expectations are now so low for the Trump campaign that a solid week of on-message performance may completely change the narrative.  There are so many media cycles between now and November, and so much thirst by the cable news networks for content, that you could get the media to run with almost anything.

Clinton is in a much stronger position in terms of discipline, money, infrastructure, and the breadth of her coalition.  Yet Trump remains in striking distance.

So can Trump still win?  Yes.  We can look to countless examples of conventional wisdom being upended whether it was Justin Trudeau’s shocking majority government win only 60 days after he was in third place, the Brexit results, or the rise of Trump himself. He still has strong support among white voters and men.  The Democrats cannot afford to take their foot off the Trump campaign’s throat until it’s over.  Polls schmolls – you never know until the votes are cast.

 

 

 

Trumping Clinton: 7 days of momentum

USC is running a rolling track poll where they interview 300-400 people a day (online) right through to Election Day.  This is a serious poll with serious methodology.  The numbers shown daily represent seven days of tracking. Each day, the daily results from 7 days ago drop off and the current day is added, making it a rolling track.  This smooths results and shows more of a trendline rather than sudden shifts.  So, if there is a big move, it might not become fully apparent for several days.

For the past 7 days, Donald Trump’s support has increased to, now, a 7 point lead.  This includes several days now of the Democratic National Convention.  Trump certainly had an RNC  Convention bounce but yet to see a Dem bounce.

Chart 1: Election forecast (n=2150)

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Some Democratic pundits have cautioned against “bedwetting”.  Yes, it’s July.  There’s a long way to go.

The issue the Democrats have to confront, however, is that Trump can win.  There has been a lot of commentary about how it’s impossible for Trump to win because of lack of support among Hispanics, Blacks, women, etc.  However, he is crushing it with whites and males.

 

Here is a breakdown of the numbers to show how Trump is rising:

Chart 2: Predicted Winner

While Hillary Clinton is still seen as the likely winner by 49% to 45%, that gap has narrowed from 13 points to 4 points in the past 17 days.  More Americans are believing in the possibility of a Trump presidency – will that help or hurt Trump?

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Chart 3: Intention to Vote

Trump and Clinton supporters are virtually tied when it comes to whether they intend to vote.  They have leapfrogged on this.  Trump’s turnout numbers are likely helped because he has strong support among older voters; Clinton’s turnout numbers are likely helped because Trump is highly polarizing and antagonizing.

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Chart 4: Seniors 

Trump has a big lead (55% to 38%), and seniors typically vote at a higher rate.  Trump leads 18-34s too, right now.

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Chart 5: Whites

Trump leads white Americans 57% to 31%.  African-American voters are 81% to 4% for Clinton.  Hispanics, though, are reported at 50% to 37% for Clinton.  This is where one might wonder if the poll has a large enough, or representative, sample of Hispanic voters.  Or maybe that’s reality – are gender and age are ‘trumping’ race among Hispanics?

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Chart 6: Men

Trump leads Clinton by 17 points among men (53% – 36%) while Clinton has a two-point lead among women.

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What does it all mean?

Trump can win.  If you can rack up a 7 point lead, you can obviously win.  Even if this poll is inaccurate, other polls are showing Trump is leading.  Even though Hillary has a small lead in Ohio, Trump has a small lead in Florida.

The challenge for Democrats is to approach the race for what it is – a very unconventional campaign.  Trump is attracting voters who are very anti-establishment including alienated Democrats.  How many more examples do we need to see – Rob Ford, Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, and Trump himself – to understand that there is a very large constituency for those who tap into the vein of frustration, resentment, and anxiety?

This rise in Trump support may be short-term.  It may be illusory.  It may be overstated.  But it proves that Clinton is no shoo-in.   The presidential campaign has been very unkind to her personal popularity and favourables.  Bernie Sanders did a lot to soften her support and drive votes away.  She has gone from a plus 10% to minus 17% in two years.  At her peak back in 2008, she had 69% favourable rating.

Chart 7: Hillary Clinton’s favourables over past two years.

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So, the first thing Democrats have to face is that they have a problem.  Now, deal with it.  If the DNC Convention does not move the dial, then it’s time for Plan B, whatever that is.

 

Brexit: Polls are split, but Market has decided

Updated (3 hours before polls close, June 23)

Interesting piece in The Telegraph that shows slight lead for Remain.

There will not be an election-style exit poll, but YouGov plans to release an election day poll at the moment the polls close (2pm PT / 5pm ET).  If there is going to be a shocking outcome, the first glimpse may be right then.

Gamblers are 84% certain of a Remain victory.  Do they know something we don’t know?  They are probably reading the polls as their main source of information.  If the polls are wrong, they’re wrong. UBC’s Sauder School Election Prediction market is made up of bettors betting real money to predict election outcomes.  In 2013, 85% predicted an NDP majority government; in 2015, only 20% predicted a Trudeau majority.  So, a sucker is born every minute.  We’ll see if the Brits are better bettors.

Professor John Curtice reiterates today that the polls can’t be trusted and it’s basically a crapshoot.  The public pollsters notoriously got it wrong in May 2015 and it was Curtice who conducted the election day exit poll that predicted the majority no one expected.  We might just have to wait until the votes are counted!

———-

John Curtice (@whatUKthinks), the polling expert who shocked the UK when he predicted a Conservative majority one minute after the polls closed in the 2015 General Election, says Brexit is too close to call.

The markets and the bettors are predicting a victory for Remain.  Political betting analyst Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) has provided data that shows gamblers moved toward Leave about a week ago, but there was a sharp upturn for Remain after the Jo Cox murder.

Figure 1: Remain is a better bet for 75% of UK bettors.

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What are the markets doing?  British Sterling surged over the past few days, pricing in a Remain outcome.

Figure 2:  GBP climbs in final week

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And finally, what are the polls saying?

Figure 3: Compilation of Brexit polls (@MSmithsonPB)

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There has been a slight advantage for Remain via Telephone surveys and a slight advantage for Leave via Online surveys. While the markets and the bettors have turned toward the Remain camp as the likely outcome, those responding to polls are still very divided.

YouGov’s detailed tables reveal some of the underlying divisions in British society concerning Brexit.

The numbers shown in Figure 3 above are Decided support, however, as YouGov reminds us, there are still undecided voters (9%) and those who say they won’t vote (4%).  On decided vote, YouGov has it at 44 Remain, 43 Leave.

According to YouGov, here are some of the dividing lines:

Remain voters

  • Labour (64%) and LibDem (59%) voters
  • 18-24s (64%) and 25-49s (45%)
  • London (50%) and Scotland (56%)
  • Upper/Middle class – ABC1 voters (53%)

Leave voters

  • Conservative (55%) and UKIP (95%) voters
  • 50-64s (49%) and 65+ (58%)
  • Rest of South (45%); Midland-Wales (51%); North (47%)
  • Skilled working class/ working class/non-working -C2DE voters (52%)

When asked who is most certain to vote, Remain was at 79% and Leave at 84%.

On the dividing lines, there is a fundamental generational difference.  The range between young and old is stark.  The Euro debate, and underlying views on immigration, shape partisan leanings as evidenced in the Party ID splits. Class is also significant.  Then in Scotland, attitudes are tied somewhat to Scottish identity – leave Britain, but stay in EU.

But who will vote?

One would expect a high turnout.  YouGov indicates a tilt toward Leave voters.  Young people are expressing a strong preference for Remain but election turnout studies consistently show they vote at a lower rate.  Will they close the gap, like they did in Canada’s federal election, in the Brexit vote?  Will lower income voters vote at the same rate as higher income voters?  How will the UK’s sizeable immigrant communities vote and will they turnout to vote?  We don’t know this from the YouGov poll, possibly because it’s online which is typically less representative of people who don’t speak or read English well.  Telephone surveys are better in including those populations which may explain a slight leaning to Remain.

Going back to John Curtice, he is the most credible voice in the UK on polling and he believes it’s too close to call.   Curtice says the result could split the difference between the aggregate of phone polls which have Remain at 51% and the aggregate of online polls that have Leave at 51%.  A cliffhanger like the Quebec referendum of 1995.

This process ends in a vote and an outcome, but this discussion of the cold, hard numbers comes just days after a shocking murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.  This is no ordinary vote.  The referendum campaign has exposed the fault lines of UK society.  The stakes are extraordinarily high, especially in the context of a campaign that appears to be a photo-finish.

I’ll bet on Remain, based on voters pulling back due to perceived risk, like they did in Quebec in 1995 and in the recent Scottish referendum.  We’ll see if the gamblers and traders got it right.

 

 

 

 

Brexit the latest chapter in year of protest

“No10 panics as Leave surges”, shouts today’s Daily Telegraph.  “Massive swing to Brexit“, screams another.

With only 11 days until the Brexit campaign reaches its conclusion, momentum appears to be swinging at a very inopportune time for the Remain campaign.  A new poll shows a 55-45 gap in favour of Leave (adjusted for voter turnout, it’s 53-47).  UK voters appear open to following a narrative that has developed over the past year on both sides of the Atlantic – defying the establishment.

Brexit

The papers and TV news are filled with Remain campaigners issuing dire warnings about the implications of leaving the EU.  Former prime ministers Tony Blair and John Major said peace in Northern Ireland was at stake.  BBC News discussed an open letter expressing concern for science funding.  Prime Minister David Cameron is visiting job sites to underscore the threat to employment.  Former Labour leader Ed Miliband exhorted Labour supporters to get behind Remain.

It’s a robust campaign.  The Remain campaign is backed by the leadership of the four major political parties – governing Conservatives, Labour, the Scottish Nationalists, and the Lib Dems.

Significant voices in the Conservatives and Labour are advocating for Leave, including former Mayor of London Boris Johnson, cabinet ministers, and Labour MPs, not to mention UKIP, which garnered 13% of the popular vote in last year’s general election and wholeheartedly embraces a Brexit.   Other than UKIP, the Leave campaigners are bucking against their own parties, and while there is an aroma of opportunism, there are also points given for authenticity.

There are some interesting divides at play. There is an elite/populism divide.  The insiders favour Remain while the outsiders look to Leave.  The pro Euro faction of Labour obviously favours Remain but a significant bloc of Labour voters are going the other way.  Labour was particularly vulnerable to UKIP in last year’s election as working-class white voters outside London looked for a new vehicle for protest.  There is a generational divide.  Polls claim that young people are strongly in favour of Remain while plus 55 year old voters favour Leave.

Some constituencies are not bearing as much fruit for Remain as previously thought. Columnist Stephen Bush writes that hoped-for support from liberals and multicultural communities for Remain is less than certain:

The [Labour] Party always knew that it had a problem with persuading white voters in its small-town heartlands to back staying in the European Union.  It now appears that they have a problem persuading middle-class liberals in big cities to turn out to vote, and that the party’s large ethnic minority vote is more hostile to the European project than either the Labour leadership or the Remain campaign ever expected.

We’ve seen this movie before in Canada when a cross-partisan alliance (of elites) fails to mobilize their parties’ followers.  The national referendum on the Charlottetown Accord in 1992 is a shining example where dire warning were made about the future of Canada if there was a No vote.  The outcome was actually “Hell, No”.  Canada survived.

Last year’s transit referendum in Metro Vancouver was another similar example.  Everyone supported Yes except the people.

The 1995 Quebec referendum and 2014 Scottish referendum offer more insights.  Dire warnings were made, and heeded, by voters.  There were moments in those campaigns where the Yes campaigns looked like they would succeed.  In Quebec, the ultimate margin was razor thin.  A key difference was that these campaigns advocated for independence.  The EU referendum is the reverse – “yes” means status quo.  Voting “no” means change.  To mobilize grumpy protest voters, it is arguably easier to coax a “no” than a “yes”.

In all cases, emotion is key.  Bombarding voters with facts and figures from self-interested elites is not the path to success when contrasted with fears over migrants or anger over EU spending.

In the Quebec example, while there were many factors at play, a late-campaign emotional outpouring from Canadians provided much needed momentum.  The federalist forces had their backs against the wall and they rallied, literally, in an historic and emotional show of force.

Can the Remain campaign muster a cogent emotional argument in the next 11 days?  In the past year, the success of Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, and Bernie Sanders provides striking examples of the resolve of voters outside the establishment to go their own way and absolutely tune out traditional voices.  Remain will need to change up their playbook to reach voters that are turned off as much by the messengers as they are by the message.

Over pints at a pub here in the UK, I talked with a collection of university students.  They are incredulous that the UK could vote to Leave.  Their modern outlook sees the opportunities that the EU brings.  The Remain campaign will need to draw on generational differences and mobilize this group of voters that has been typically less likely to vote.

Will the UK vote to Brexit? Most here think not but the next week will be critical in swinging the momentum either way.  As has been said many times, campaigns matter.

 

 

 

 

Manitoba Election cheat sheet

“Glorious and Free” is the Manitoba motto.  Free of the NDP by midnight Tuesday, I’ll bet, though not very gloriously.

Despite some late controversy over the Manitoba PC leader’s sojourns to Costa Rica, available evidence seems to indicate it’s the NDP that will be heading to sunnier climes come Tuesday night.  The recent TV debate did nothing to motivate NDP and Liberal voters and, if anything, opened up the Greens as a protest vehicle for centre-left voters.  For British Columbians, some parallels to 2001.  Voters seem focused on getting the job done despite reservations with the leading party.   See my earlier analysis here.

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They have unicorns in Manitoba – maybe the NDP have a chance?

 

In 2011, Greg Selinger’s Manitoba NDP won 45.9% of the popular vote and elected 37 MLAs.

Hugh McFadyen’s PCs won 43.5% of the popular vote and elected 19 MLAs.

The Liberals held the seat of their then-Leader Jon Gerrard and received 7.5% of the popular vote.

While the PCs won rural (non-Northern) Manitoba by 22 points, they couldn’t crack Winnipeg. The NDP harvested 51% of the votes in Winnipeg, powering their majority and added to their seat count with their base of support in Northern Manitoba where they took 61.4% of the vote across five seats.

Table 1: Popular vote by region, 2011 MB election

LIB NDP PC
North 5 seats 4.71% 61.38% 32.44%
Rest of MB 21 seats 4.43% 35.69% 57.84%
Winnipeg 31 seats 9.60% 50.88% 35.67%

The following table ranks the ridings in order of percentage of NDP vote from the 2011 election.  The NDP scored 73.2% in The Pas.  They won 8 seats by over 60% and a further 25 seats by over 50%.  The remaining four seats were in the 45-49% range.   In many jurisdictions like BC, Alberta, and federally, you will see instances of elected members with 30% or less.  Manitoba has been very polarized.

The PCs look poised to win a bushel of seats from the NDP in that group from 45% to 60% (NDP vote in last election). The NDP seats in the plus 60% range may hold.

High profile NDP candidate Wab Kinew, embattled by campaign controversy, is running in Fort Rouge against the Liberal leader Rana Bokhari.  This would be a seat that the NDP ought to lose given the trend in the numbers.  The Liberal leader is out of the picture, it seems. So the PCs could emerge as the winner here.

The Green Leader James Beddome is seeking a seat in Fort Garry-Riverview. A bit of a stretch to see a Green win, but not a surprise to see a decent second.

In the table below, NDP supporters will not want to see any PC wins until much further down the list.  A PC win in a riding that was plus 60% for the NDP last election would be a very bad sign.

Table 2: Seats in order of NDP % of the vote in the 2011 election

Electoral Division Member Elected Party NDP%
The Pas WHITEHEAD, Frank NDP 73.21%
Point Douglas CHIEF, Kevin NDP 72.88%
St. Boniface SELINGER, Greg NDP 68.57%
Thompson ASHTON, Steve NDP 68.20%
Minto SWAN, Andrew NDP 66.00%
St. Johns MACKINTOSH, Gord NDP 65.55%
Concordia WIEBE, Matt NDP 62.72%
Wolseley ALTEMEYER, Rob NDP 60.25%
St. Vital ALLAN, Nancy NDP 59.80%
Kildonan CHOMIAK, Dave NDP 59.20%
Burrows WIGHT, Melanie NDP 59.01%
Logan MARCELINO, Flor NDP 58.09%
Assiniboia RONDEAU, Jim NDP 58.00%
Transcona REID, Daryl NDP 57.92%
Flin Flon PETTERSEN, Clarence NDP 56.84%
Kewatinook ROBINSON, Eric NDP 56.80%
Rossmere BRAUN, Erna NDP 56.38%
Swan River KOSTYSHYN, Ron NDP 55.82%
Selkirk DEWAR, Greg NDP 55.59%
Fort Garry-Riverview ALLUM, James NDP 55.29%
Radisson JHA, Bidhu NDP 54.95%
Dauphin STRUTHERS, Stan NDP 54.78%
Riel MELNICK, Christine NDP 54.69%
Brandon East CALDWELL, Drew NDP 54.68%
Elmwood MALOWAY, Jim NDP 54.15%
Fort Richmond IRVIN-ROSS, Kerri NDP 53.16%
Seine River OSWALD, Theresa NDP 52.88%
Dawson Trail LEMIEUX, Ron NDP 52.24%
Southdale SELBY, Erin NDP 51.84%
The Maples SARAN, Mohinder NDP 51.49%
Gimli BJORNSON, Peter NDP 51.43%
Fort Rouge HOWARD, Jennifer NDP 50.95%
Interlake NEVAKSHONOFF, Tom NDP 50.24%
St. James CROTHERS, Deanne NDP 49.61%
Brandon West HELWER, Reg PC 46.72%
Kirkfield Park BLADY, Sharon NDP 46.61%
Tyndall Park MARCELINO, Ted NDP 45.00%
St. Norbert GAUDREAU, Dave NDP 44.94%
River East MITCHELSON, Bonnie PC 43.92%
Portage la Prairie WISHART, Ian PC 39.14%
Lac du Bonnet EWASKO, Wayne PC 38.42%
St. Paul SCHULER, Ron PC 37.26%
Riding Mountain ROWAT, Leanne PC 34.41%
Arthur-Virden MAGUIRE, Larry PC 30.09%
Charleswood DRIEDGER, Myrna PC 29.88%
Fort Whyte McFADYEN, Hugh PC 29.49%
Spruce Woods CULLEN, Cliff PC 28.47%
La Verendrye SMOOK, Dennis PC 26.02%
Lakeside EICHLER, Ralph PC 25.84%
Tuxedo STEFANSON, Heather PC 25.30%
Midland PEDERSEN, Blaine PC 23.56%
Emerson GRAYDON, Cliff PC 19.60%
Morris TAILLIEU, Mavis PC 19.26%
River Heights GERRARD, Jon Liberal 17.74%
Agassiz BRIESE, Stu PC 17.12%
Morden-Winkler FRIESEN, Cameron PC 11.38%
Steinbach GOERTZEN, Kelvin PC 7.60%
 NDP in MB 45.94%

Manitoba: NDP toast; Libs failure to launch

With the April 19th provincial election looming, the Manitoba NDP is in a dire situation.  It’s not much better for the Liberals.

The PCs have a substantial lead according to most polls.  They have maintained a comfortable margin over the NDP.  Earlier in the campaign, the NDP may have been more preoccupied with the Liberals cannibalizing their vote.  Instead, the Liberal leader has tanked and it hasn’t helped the NDP much.

Figure 1: Depiction of NDP support in Manitoba (second slice for Liberals)11820555

It coulda been ’88 all over again

I campaigned for Sharon Carstairs in 1988 when she zoomed from one seat to twenty and Official Opposition status.  It was a Prairie brush fire.  She darn near won the election, and did in fact force a minority government.  The election had major national implications.

Like the 2016 election, there was a deeply unpopular NDP government.  There was a Liberal Party that was rising in the polls.  And a PC leader that had mixed reviews.  The NDP lost a vote in the Legislature (defeated by their own Speaker) precipitating an election.  Premier Howard Pawley resigned and called a leadership convention, which elected Gary Doer.  Doer, against common practice, was not sworn in as Premier.  He led the Party into the election to a third-place finish.  At least renewal in the NDP was underway.

This election has been far different for the NDP.  The incumbent Premier Greg Selinger faced an internal revolt and beat back the dissidents in a leadership review and limped into the election.  Renewal postponed.

The PCs in 1988 were led by Gary Filmon.  Nice guy.  Bland.  Didn’t set the world on fire.  He narrowly lost to the NDP in 1986 (30 seats to 26).  In 1988, the NDP vote was collapsing but voters weren’t sprinting to the PCs.  Would Filmon get them over the finish line?  If not, political career over.

Enter Sharon Carstairs.  She held her own seat in the Legislature, a minor miracle for a Liberal on the Prairies to be elected in the 1980s.  She built the Party up and stood out as a strong opponent of the Meech Lake Accord, aligning with prominent national opponents  like Jean Chretien.

As a Young Liberal in the day, I drove across the Prairies with my buddy Iain in his Ford Escort to support an improbable breakthrough.  We door-knocked for Liberal candidates like current MPs Kevin Lamoreux and Jim Carr, and former BC Liberal MLA Gulzar Cheema – all who ran in that campaign.  And many others too – let’s just say, there were a lot of “characters” running in that campaign.  Current MP Terry Duguid was the Liberal executive director then.

Carstairs seized the agenda during the TV debate and never looked back.  Momentum that was building, exploded (Gordon Wilson followed this playbook in the 1991 BC election).  She raced to the top of the polls.  When the dust settled, Carstairs won much of Winnipeg, but was held off by the PCs who used their rural muscle to win a plurality of seats, albeit a minority.

Figure 2: Coveted political artefactIMG_4154

 

Carstairs strong opposition to Meech Lake pushed the Filmon government into taking a much tougher position.  The three leaders – Filmon, Carstairs, Doer – were all in Ottawa for the constitutional showdown in June 1990.  They brought the final deal home to Manitoba where Elijah Harper defeated it, and in doing so, killed the Accord.  Do elections matter?  In this case, the Liberal surge in 1988 changed the course of Canada’s constitution.  Meech may have happened with a Filmon majority.

What’s up with 2016?

So, why isn’t it happening this time?  The conditions are there.  Deeply unpopular NDP with a lot of of centre-left voters shopping for an alternative.  The PC leader Brian Palliser is perceived as less moderate than Gary Filmon.  His leadership numbers aren’t bad but they are not great either.  And the federal Liberal brand is far, far stronger in 2016 than it was in 1988.

It boils down to the Liberals.  Sharon Carstairs was a crackerjack leader.  She ultimately could not sustain the growth in Liberal support, but she was the right leader at the right time in 1988.  From my perch going from riding to riding, I detected real enthusiasm from the grassroots and strong leadership in the campaign.  It was loose, it was fun, and everyone was going with it.

This time, the Liberal leader Rana Bokhari has struggled.  Mainstreet polled following the TV leader’s debate on April 12th.  She was a minus 40 on impressions; NDP Premier Greg Selinger was minus 32.  Brian Palliser was a net zero.  That’s a lot of collective disappointment for the voters.  The Green leader James Beddome scored the best.  Her high polling numbers pre-writ masked underlying weaknesses that have been exposed during the writ period.  In 1988, had social media existed, I’m pretty sure some of the guys who got elected as Liberals would not have made it to the ballot box (I could tell you about the guy with mirrors on his ceiling).  In 2016, the Liberals lost six candidates, which blows you off message pretty quickly.  And was there a message?  Not apparently.  Compared to Carstairs, she wasn’t ready.

Palliser also has the good fortune of not having a federal Conservative government in power.  Filmon was plagued by Brian Mulroney who had moved a huge CF-18 contract from Manitoba to Quebec.  If there is a Harper hangover, it hasn’t hurt him too much.

After 1988, Filmon moved to occupy Carstairs’ territory on the Constitution.  He called an election in 1990 and secured a majority, and repeated the feat in 1995.  Gary Doer hung in there, losing three elections before he won three of his own.   The Liberals faded into the background.  With the federal Liberals gaining 45% of the vote in Manitoba six months ago, this was to be their time again after a 27 year frost.

Now, with both the NDP and Liberals performing poorly, and the Greens highly unlikely to convert growth into seats, this has the makings of a very strong PC majority. The NDP should retain a nucleus of members.  It doesn’t look like an apocalypse along the lines of New Brunswick 1987, Canada 1993, or BC 2001.  It may look more like Saskatchewan.  Core NDP seats in Winnipeg and Northern Manitoba should be held even if their popular vote dips as low as 25%.  As for the Liberals, they will look back on missed opportunity.

Update: Mainstreet released a poll April 16th that showed the race at 55% PC; 26% NDP; and with the Greens ahead of the Liberals in Winnipeg, indicating that protest voters may have found a new home.  Gordon Campbell’s BC Liberals had 57% in 2001 and took 77 of 79 seats.  I think the NDP in Manitoba will do better than the BC NDP did in 2001 which will save core seats.  They do better with older voters (who vote).

Green Leader James Beddome is running in Fort Garry / Riverview, a seat that went 55% NDP in 2011 but they will likely lose next week.  Voters went federal Liberal in 2015.  So, given his strong debate performance and momentum, it is not out of the question that the Greens win a seat.  The Alberta election saw an Alberta Party member elected along with a lone Liberal.  BC has a Green and an independent provincially, along with a federal Green MP.  Beddome’s riding is adjacent to River Heights which used to send Sharon Carstairs to the Legislature.  It will be a steep hill for the Greens to climb but Beddome will likely do respectably.

 

NDP between a ROC and a hard place

Until 2011, the NDP was scarcely a factor in Quebec.  Jack Layton redrew the federal political map in that election.

The NDP had been on a slow but steady climb in Quebec under Layton, starting with barely 1% of the popular vote and reaching double digits (barely) in the 2008 election.  The meteoric rise in 2011 masked the fact that NDP gains in the Rest of Canada (ROC) were not as spectacular.  The NDP had nested in the 15% to 20% range from 1965 to 1988 before crashing in the 1990s.  Their historic vote was almost entirely in ROC.

The general elections of 2011 and 2015 are the only two in the NDP’s history where the popular vote was higher in Quebec than ROC.  In 2015, ROC fell back to 18% – in its traditional zone as third party.

Chart 1: NDP popular vote (%) in Quebec and Rest of Canada (ROC)Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 10.43.22 AM.png

Now, with Thomas Mulcair on his way out, does the NDP have a future in Quebec?  It was Mulcair’s by-election victory during the Layton era that helped spark NDP growth.  What will be left of the NDP post-Mulcair?  It risks turning its back on what has become, in the past two elections, a key base of support.

Layton’s high water mark in ROC was 26% (2011).  In order to govern, a new leader will need to eclipse Layton in ROC while renewing support in Quebec post-Mulcair.

A tall order indeed.  Though governing does not appear to be on the NDP’s mind.