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Friday, April 29, 2011

A Week is A Long Time In Politics

I've never seen anything like the turnaround in the polls for Jack Llayton and the NDP party.  (Well - maybe once - the Progessive Conservatives did get their asses kicked in 1993.  Remember when Jean Charest and Elsie Wayne could hold caucus meetings in a phone booth?)

But why now?  Rick Mercer has been wondering the same thing - and puts it down to TV.
At first I believed Jack’s new-found success among anglophone voters in Quebec could be attributed to the fact that in the French language debates his translator sounded like Sean Connery, but clearly it’s more than that. And while the crowds are larger than Jack is used to, Jack is doing exactly what he has done for almost a decade. I watched him get a rock-star response at a Sikh Khalsa Day celebration in Toronto, I saw him talk blue-collar issues for a boisterous crowd in Saint John, N.B., and finally parlez-vous them into a frenzy in Gatineau, Que....And Jack Layton is a great campaigner but a good speech in Gatineau doesn’t put the NDP in first place in Quebec. Jack made that happen on French debate night. Again, it’s the air war.
I don't think it is only TV though.  The Conservatives underestimated the voters - you and me.
Many pollsters, and some insiders from other parties, entered this campaign sharing the belief that the vast majority of voters aren’t really in play.Then, after the leaders’ debates, all hell broke loose. Starting in Quebec, then spreading to other provinces, support started shifting toward the NDP – not just in tiny blocs, but in large numbers. If the polls are to be believed, millions of voters have moved to a party that was assumed to have hit its ceiling in the last campaign.  It is not Conservative voters, primarily, who have shifted. In Quebec, where Mr. Layton has for years been courting left-of-centre and soft nationalist voters, the NDP capitalized on fatigue and annoyance with the Bloc Québécois. Elsewhere, the gains have mostly come at the expense of the Liberals and the Green Party.  But the Conservatives, who thought they had this election fully gamed out, have not been nimble enough to respond. They have watched as anti-Harper support has consolidated behind the NDP, putting in jeopardy some of the seats they were counting on, and until the last few days seemingly refused to believe it was happening. And because they didn’t think it was worth speaking to most self-identified supporters of other parties, they’ve been unable to woo many of the disaffected Liberals leaving that party in droves..... And in future campaigns, all parties will know better than to treat us as quite the automatons the Conservatives thought we were.
The  shift in polling patterns  happened after the debates -  so perhaps Rick Mercer is correct about the "air war.".   But some of the effect has  to have been achieved by the Conservatives themselves - not talking to supporters of other parties - not permitting people without an approved Facebook profile into Conservative rallies - working from fear rather than from hope.

And, perhaps the many times the Liberals propped the Conservatives up by voting with them has come back to bite them  or maybe Jack Layton just seems -  well - warmer and nicer and more hopeful than the other two.

I hope this trend holds - I'd love to do a conga line chanting Harper's gone, Harper's gone a la 1993!

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