Saturday, August 25, 2007

Half The Battle

For an upstart campaign, half the battle is creating the perception that you can win. With marginal voters, the idea of backing a loser is unattractive, but if people sense momentum and viability, that creates possibility. Uncorrected Proofs has provided some first-hand accounts of the by-election in Outremont. I don't want to overstate the importance of one opinion, particularly a NDP supporter, but his/her perceptions are interesting. Visually, it would appear the NDP has done there job in creating a sense that Muclair is a force:
the NDP's much smaller signs are attached to almost every single post in Outremont and therefore Mulcair is hands down the winner of the sign war. Admittedly, these pictures were taken on the same street as Mulcair's campaign headquarters (pictured below). However driving through the riding would leave no doubt in the minds of the average voter that an NDP breakthrough is certainly within the realm of possibility, if not probability.

Quite simply, there is NO excuse for a supposed Liberal stronghold to play second-fiddle to anyone, particularly the NDP, when it comes to visual presentation. The casual voter, driving around the riding, is bound to think that the NDP is a force to be reckoned with, a marginal player no more. Just signs, but there is no doubt they are important cues that do influence.

Uncorrected Proofs also posted on a recent visit by Layton and Chow, which my count is 3 seperate visits to the riding by the NDP leader. That presence also sends a strong message that the NDP is in this race to win, not to mention the free press a leader's visit guarantees. You sense a measure of urgency in the NDP campaign, that quite frankly doesn't seem to be matched by the incumbent party. IMHO, this is a dangerous game, because this by-election will have aftershocks.

Fast forward to by-election night. The Bloc takes two seats, guaranteeing a good night. The Conservatives are likely shut out, hardly a statement of any momentum in the province. The NDP has the potential to steal the show, and I would submit even a narrow loss is a partial victory. If the Liberals win in a squeaker, we will hear whispers, people will talk about the last stronghold, now a competitive battlefield. A slim victory brings more questions, a loss disaster.

When I hear first-hand accounts such as the above, it makes me wonder (from the OUTSIDE) if Liberals don't quite appreciate the stakes. It would appear that the NDP is awash in energy and motivation, while the Liberals carry on like the old-guard, with a bit too much comfort for my liking.


ottlib said...

I have said it before and I will say it again, by-elections are won on the ground.

The NDP can put all of the signs they want up on sign-posts and telephone poles.

They can have Mr. Layton spend a week there.

The question is how successful are they in identifying NDP voters? Because when e-day comes along the party that has identified the most voters and is able to pull that vote will win.

That is the piece of first-hand knowledge we are missing.

From my own experience participating in three elections here in Ottawa a candidate or party that makes grand gestures is not as successful as the candidate or party that focuses on the mundane of door-knocking and telephone canvassing, followed by flooding every poll with people to pull the vote on e-day.

That is how the Liberals won the last election in Outrement because it certainly was not because the Liberals were really popular in Quebec and that they ran a stellar national campaign.

Of course such campaigns attract absolutely no media coverage because they are boring. But they are also effective.

So I would not mistake the perceived silence of the Liberals in this campaign for complacency. In all likelyhood they are working very hard.

northwestern_lad said...

Ottlib... as someone who has worked on a few campaigns himself, I think that you need to take off the rose coloured glasses. Every single party does their canvassing by foot and phone, knocks on doors and get their vote out. That is part of the process that everyone does. The fact is that getting the signs out is another part of the process that not only shows strength, it also shows momentum, as it's not cheap to get for all of those signs.

The fact is that those signs, as Steve correctly said, send a message that they are in this race and that they are taking it seriously. Those sings have an amazing power to get people to get involved in a campaign and donate their time and money to that campaign. It's not an either-or proposition (choosing between the signs and canvassing). To have a successful campaign, you need to have both of those. If the Liberals are just putting this campaign on cruise-control, expecting to win this no matter what, then that is a very big tactical mistake.

Steve V said...

IMHO, you flex your muscles in everyway possible. There shouldn't be one single area, wherein the Liberals appear vulnerable. Create an air of invincibility, instead of allowing the NDP an opportunity. Given Layton and the national NDP's attention, I also think it a mistake to assume a massive advantage with the ground game.

ottlib said...

NW Lad:

My problem is everybody is assuming that the Liberals are on cruise-control or that they are are asleep at the switch or that they are generally just taking this election for granted.

Many are making that assumption based on what the NDP is doing and comparing it to that assumption. Not very logical is it? Before, making all sorts of doom and gloom predictions it might be a good idea to find out what the Liberals are actually doing in Outrement. Compare, fact with fact then draw a conclusion.

Despite its recent setbacks the Liberal Party of Canada is the most successful political entity in the democratic world and they know what it takes to win elections, even in so-called "safe" seats.

Steve V said...

"the Liberal Party of Canada is the most successful political entity in the democratic world and they know what it takes to win elections"

The past is irrelevant to the now, especially given the unique circumstance for the Liberals in Quebec. I understand everything you are saying, I'm not all doom and gloom, but there is no doubt that NDP has some momentum here, and failing to acknowledge that is symptomatic of a greater problem. I still give the Liberals odds, for many of the reasons you mention, but I also see a danger here, and I'm quite comfortable trusting my instincts. As I said earlier, a slim victory is a mixed bag, that may have consequences moving forward.

If Layton visits, Dion should follow. If a sign is put up, the organization you speak to should have no problem countering, and/or easily outdoing. The behind the scenes stuff is wonderful, but you also have to show a presence visually. Liberals should approach Quebec as the fight of their lives, because the last time I checked the map it suggests a last bastion, on a tiny island, with nowhere left to go. Hardly a position of confidence in my view, despite the history.

Red Tory said...

Steve — O/T, but you should check back and see the actual post from Patels re Olaf. Unbelievable!

A View From The Left said...

Regardless of how well the NDP appears to be doing, I still think it’s an outside chance that they’ll win. The more likely outcome, IMO, is that votes will bleed from the Liberals to the NDP because of the NDP’s strong campaign, which will allow the Bloc who came a close second last election to slip up the middle. That’s the greatest danger resulting from a laid-back Liberal campaign.

Steve V said...


That's a bad scenario, and isn't out of the realm with vote splitting.


I saw that classless comment. The boil on the ass of the blogosphere :)

Steve V said...


Another thought. Polls show that Bloc voters are more likely to vote NDP or Con than the Liberals. With a relatively weak Bloc in this by-election, it is conceivable that soft support moves to the other alternative, which could benefit the NDP.

Steve V said...

Another shrewd move by the NDP, holding their caucus retreat in Montreal. Layton is doing a great job keeping the NDP in the local headlines.

Steve V said...

Besides the fact I'm talking to myself, I should be fair and point out that Dion is set to hold an economic summit in Montreal a week before the by-election.

A View From The Left said...

Steve, I'm not sure that a lot of "soft" support votes that much in by-elections as many people don't bother voting. Also, I'm not sure the Bloc campaign is that weak. We may not have heard about it like we have with the NDP one, but Duceppe has been in the riding a number of times.

Steve V said...


True enough, I guess I'm using the last election, with the Bloc "star" candidate as a reference point. As far as turnout, I might be higher than usual, given the high-profile, but if it is low, does that favor the campaign with the energy?

A View From The Left said...


I'm betting that turnout will be higher then usual, given the amount of attention from the MSM. If voter turn-out is low then it depends on how many of the more hard-core supporters each party can get out, and while the NDP would probably get more of theirs percentage wise, the Liberal (and Bloc for that matter) have greater numbers to begin with.

Either way I think it will be close, but my gut instinct is that the Bloc will take this one.

Steve V said...

Interesting. I'm still betting on the Liberals, but I suppose a Bloc victory isn't out the realm, particularly if the scenario you laid out earlier happens.

outremont politico said...

A Bloc victory is so far beyond the improbable that the old “sovereignist as boogeyman” argument is laughable. The Liberals have always used that argument in Quebec to discourage federalists from voting for any other party, and more importantly for this by-election, in order to motivate their own voters to cast their ballots. The argument is used over and over because it has worked.

The argument held water when the Bloc ran Rebello. The Bloc had their top organizers working that campaign. They had a very strong candidate, full coffers and a larger and more motivated membership. If the NDP had run a candidate any weaker than Omar Aktouf, or a candidate that appealed more to the soft Liberal vote, the Bloc might have squeaked by. But that was then….
… and this is now: The Bloc is not only down in the polls and in financial difficulty; they also have a leader who has shown serious political misjudgment and weakness in his recent 48 hour jump into provincial politics only to retreat with his tail between his legs. They are also running a ‘fall-back’ candidate, (the riding association president!?), who has little to no public profile or name recognition.

Musn't forget that the electorate in Outremont who live in the polls where the Bloc has been strong in past campaigns, has an above average level of education and are probably aware of the fact that the Bloc has been propping up the conservative minority government. Significant numbers of Bloc voters with conservative leanings, (estimated in a poll as being around 20% of Bloc voters), will simply vote conservative, and those who are progressive will vote NDP (around 14%) or even Green, and those with a keen sense of humour and a healthy dose of cynicism can now vote Rhino! Much of the soft vote won’t vote at all. They are in large part not the kind of blind support the Bloc has elsewhere.

The fact is that the sovereignist mouvement has been in trouble for awhile and the Bloc is hemorrhaging support pretty much throughout Quebec and are rightly much more preoccupied with winning St-Hyacinthe-Bagot and Roberval then they are in beating a lame horse campaign in Outremont; and I'd wager that there are many top level Bloc movers and shakers who would very much like to see Dion's candidate fail in one of the last doz. Lib strongholds in the province and they know very well that the NDP is in a better position to beat the Libs in Outremont then they are.

The election is too close to call at the moment. It will be played out in the last two weeks, and I believe those two weeks will get nasty; so far there have just been a few shots fired over the bows: none have stuck and some have even backfired but with little consequence. At the moment, what is clear to me is that the NDP has done what was necessary in order to be in the running (and that is quite a feat in itself for the NDP in Quebec); the Liberals are working hard to hold on to the riding, so much weighs in the balance for them, but they have the strongest, most entrenched organization on the ground, so key in getting out the vote; and, the Bloc and the Conservatives, who are preoccupied with the other two by-elections, will battle it out for 3rd place.

Steve V said...

out pol

Thanks for the first-hand account. You seem to be acknowledging that the NDP does have a shot?

outremont politico said...

Hi Steve V, sorry to keep your question hangin’,
Yes, I was acknowledging he NDP has a shot, all the while pointing out that things would heat up during the last two weeks of the campaign; that it was too early to call.
Things haven’t heated up as much as I thought they would, but there are still 5 days left :).
I still believe that the NDP has a shot. This is what I’ve observed to lead me to that conclusion:
There is a buzz in the riding and Mulcair, (and Layton), are pushing hard on the ground. Other MPs have been back since the caucus retreat mass canvass. Olivia Chow was sighted working a street in Côte-des-Neiges (a neighbourhood with significant Chinese and Vietnamese communities). Joe Comartin was seen working the cafés on Saint-Viateur in the Mile-End district. Alexa McDonough was in town again over the weekend for the advanced polls and even Ed Broadbent was in the riding for a picnic to which the whole neighbourhood had been invited.
Then there is the low turnout in the advanced polls. Typically it is the Liberal machine that gets their vote out in significant numbers during the advanced polls, so a low turnout is not a good sign for Coulon's campaign. From what I could tell, both the NDP and the Liberals had volunteers at every advance poll table, the NDP even had runners, but both the Bloc and the Conservatives were absent.
I think that Chantal Hebert has had the best understanding so far of the campaign and should not be dismissed due to lack of detail. I wonder if she doesn't live in the riding; so many journalists do.
It’s not over yet, it is hard to believe that the NDP could pull it off, but they are sure giving the Liberals a run for the money…
…at least that’s my perception here in the riding.