Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Game Of Expectations

Heading into the four by-elections tomorrow, the biggest challenge for the Liberals is meeting pre-determined expectations. How the results are spun by the media is the key, and in many ways it's a no win scenario.

Should the Liberals manage to win all four ridings, then the result meets expectation, a fairly positive development. I actually see the quality of candidates entering Parliament as the biggest plus to Liberal fortunes, but a sweep maintains the status quo, a restless media declawed. Win all four, then the Liberals have maintained the brand, pretty photo-ops of all the shiny new MP's. You could even argue the Liberals receive some momentum, making an election more likely.

Where it gets tricky, and it isn't necessarily fair, is if the Liberals only manage to win 3 out of the 4. The two ridings in Ontario, and the one in Vancouver Quadra, are safe seats, reasonable to expect victory. The riding in Saskatchewan, however, is anything but a sure thing, in fact it always has been a 50/50 proposition for the Liberals. That said, there is the optics of a potential seat loss, which is magnified when you consider the hand-picked candidate, a direct connection to Dion. Again, if we are being fair in our analysis, a Liberal loss really isn't significant, or telling, but I fear the media will see it differently, at the very least an "okay" night for the Liberals, at worst some questions.

Should it happen, that the Liberals were to lose in Saskatchewan and in British Columbia, then you have the worst case scenario, which opens up a whole host of unattractive possibilities. We can debate the "wacky" quality of by-elections, low turnout, but that is really irrelevant to the frame- Liberals suffer two loses, another "safe seat" gone. In many ways, this is a more troubling development than Outremont, mostly because it reinforces that result, a more wide ranging pattern developed. There would be a media shitstorm of the highest order and we all know the angles.

Should be a fascinating night.


Anonymous said...

I've wondered why everyone keeps saying "wait until the byelections are over the the Liberals have momentum.

Seems to me the Libs have very little to gain and everything to lose here. Winning all 4 seats would simply mean they didn't lose. Even a drop in voter percentage might be seen as a failure. If they lose one seat it won't look good, two seats will be seen as a disaster.

Is it fair?

Maybe not but that doesn't change anything.

Steve V said...

"Winning all 4 seats would simply mean they didn't lose. Even a drop in voter percentage might be seen as a failure."

You have to acknowledge the optics of high profile MP's entering the H of C. Some star power is a plus by any definition.

That said, I take you point, the Liberals have always had the most to lose here.

Anonymous said...


I don't think so. I believe Steve's analysis is pretty close to the mark, excepting reality is that it is truly meaningless, even if they drop a couple.

The rest of Canada's not watching, just us pinheads.

The MSM will try and carry this, but a strong Dion will just say "nonsense", and be right.

I personally hope they stumble, but am also troubled that the CPC candidates in Toronto were "outed" by the media as no shows. There was no reason for that. I could have run as the CPC against Rae and not won, but got a few good licks in. The CPC candidate didn't seem to be visible at all.

I think that 4 victories means a spring election.


Anonymous said...

I think I will abstain from voting for the Liberals in the next federal election. I would rather see them vote either for or against Harper. Take a stand!

Anonymous said...

You said the Conservative candidates are "invisible"? Is that because they did not seek national media exposure when their target is local?

I know for a fact that Meredith is very visible in his riding. Rae might get national news exposure because many in the media treat him like a returning messiah...but that does not count for squat in a local riding.
In byelections the national media pundits can't meddle like they do in general elections.

Karen said...

Hmmm, a bit of a buy in to the media spin me thinks, though you make good points Steve.

I think we would do better if we stopped trying to develop strategy based on what they say.

I've heard 'All Liberal strong holds' and 'they only won the Sask. riding by 67 votes which traditionally has gone conservative then liberal' in the same breathe for gawd's sake.

Optic's would be brilliant if we won all 4 and to say that we simply held our own is nonsense.

If we only win three, while not good, it can be dealt with. I agree with Tomm on that.

I hope that is not the case. The candidate in Sask has put an awful lot on the line for this.

btw. Did you know that the riding in Sask is the size of Germany? Mind boggling.

Karen said...

anon...they ran from National media exposure.

Hey, what if they won a riding? How'd they feel about national exposure then?

Apologists / preztels, take your pick.

Anonymous said...

yes, anon, the CPC candidates were actually quoted as telling media they wouldn't talk to them because they were national media. They also were reported as not coming to some of the forums where all the other candidates were. I wondered why any candidate would openly tell media they didn't want to talk to them. Even if Harper told them not to, you would think they would be more subtle about avoiding the media. This was aso the case in Vancouver.

Steve V said...

"The rest of Canada's not watching, just us pinheads"

One word, Outremont.

I must say, with all due respect, I'm getting tired of the esoteric argument, mostly used like a soother for comfort. Something bad happens, no big whoop, nobody is watching. I've said it before, half of people don't vote, so eliminate them from any consideration. What you are left with is a majority that at least, watch a newscast, read a paper, etc, people that at least get the broad themes, some of them more.

I was watching CPAC tonight, and they were out on the streets, asking people what they thought of the Cadman issue. I can say with conviction, I was pleasantly surprised with the knowledge in the responses, a certain level of understanding and sophistication, fairly passionate opinion, from a cross section of people.

Two cents.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a good one:

(Conservative Candidate Deborah) Meredith told the Straight in a phone interview that she couldn’t attend a recent debate on climate change because she had to attend a prearranged function. “There was a coffee party at somebody’s house,” Meredith said.

James Curran said...

The fact of the matter is that we will win TC, Willowdale and Quadra. If Joan doesn't happen to win in Sask, it will not be a strike on Dion, rather one huge a-bomb to Goodale.

Having said that, I wonder how we're going to manufacture a spring election?

Anonymous said...

Re: the conservative candidate choosing a coffee party over a public conference - seems to me this candidate knows that politics happens at the grass roots - one person and one vote at a time.
Was the right choice in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Re the CPC candidates keeping a low profile. This is classic Harper strategy--playing his cards close to his chest.

The media can spin this as "Harper the control freak, Harper muzzling his candidates, yadda yadda". But who cares.

There's no upside in tipping off the Liberals as to the kind of campaign strategy Harper will be deploying in the general election.

You guys and the media will just have to wait patiently to see what Harper has in store.

Calgary Junkie

burlivespipe said...

Harper's genius strategy? Fool the rubes by dodging and weaving, let no question go answered kind of campaign, where the candidates rehearse their 'potted fern' role as a back-bench MP. All the easier to sell the real agenda when Harper rolls 'lucky 7s' on the back of deception, bribery and deep pocketed slush funds. In-out, million dollar insurance, no accountability for you, gag the scientists and researchers etc.
Canada is back alright.

Anonymous said...

That genius strategy anon is referring to is Jason Kennedy's data base for ethnic targetting. No doubt, Meridth's coffee was with some specific targetted group. They likely don't want the publicity because last time Kennedy got publicity for this, it was on the front page of the Globe and Mail that they wouldn't bother targetting blacks for example. They have ethnic groups they target and others they don't bother with and if voters openly saw this strategy, well, the CPC might look bad. Avoiding the press might be an actual strategy.

Steve V said...

"There's no upside in tipping off the Liberals as to the kind of campaign strategy Harper will be deploying in the general election.

You guys and the media will just have to wait patiently to see what Harper has in store."

Junkie, you would have to blind not to know what the strategy is right now.

Anonymous said...

Let's all flash back to the days before the last general election.

How many pundits just assumed that Harper would campaign on Gomery ?

And how many pundits foresaw Harper's "announcement a day" strategy ?

My point is:
We don't know what kind of campaign Harper will run. And Harper is not going to tip his hand in these by-elections.

As another example, go back to before the October 2007 economic update. Flaherty was vague on what he would do. How many people correctly predicted he would cut the GST by another 1 % AND cut the corporate tax rate some more ? It caught everybody by surprise. Dion had very little time to decide on whether to defeat that "mini-budget".

Springing surprises and putting pressure on his opponents to act quickly are two of Harper's favorite strategies.

Calgary Junkie

Steve V said...

"We don't know what kind of campaign Harper will run."

Maybe you don't, but I sure do. There is no more mystery around the man, his tactics are pretty monolithic, pretty predictable at this point.

Besides, this is why Harper's candidates are hiding, they did that in the last election for pete's sake. It's the way these accountable, transparent Conservatives do business.

Anonymous said...

Don't want to be interfere, but I am desperately looking forward to your analysis of these four by-elections.

I will say my piece here. There are a lot of Liberal grassroots who had expected 3 out of 4. They are outraged over the hosing of David Orchard. The result in Desnethe is something these people are expecting.

It is not the media spin I am concerned about. The notion of Grits sitting on their hands and waiting for the shoe to drop once again, does not bode well for that r word I have mentioned repeatedly.