Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Harper should take heed of the results south of the border

Yesterday (and a little bit into today), the right-wing Republican Party swept the Democrats from office in the House of Representatives in what appears to be 59 to 65 seat swing for the party, a historic amount, far surpassing the 1994 wave against Bill Clinton's presidency. It's a stinging rebuke of the Obama presidency, as well as the leadership of now former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and continuing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The basic ssue that was on everyone's mind: the economy. Jobs. As Chris Matthews so aptly put, from Scranton, Ohio to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the Democrats were swept from power in this industrial and manufacturing heartland, losing long-standing Senate seats and many, many Congresspeople.

But, there's even more to this story. While it's anti-incumbent in its scope as anti-Democratic (who are the incumbents), the Republicans are actually less favourable to Americans than the Democrats. Indeed, there's a consistent trend in polling that shows the Democrats getting better ratings among Americans that Republicans, even over the past couple of years. While the Democrats aren't getting fantastic results, the fact that the GOP can't get anything better is telling.

The fact that the GOP had managed this huge wave even though people aren't necessarily fired up about the GOP itself, is also telling. They wanted to send a message to the incumbents that, hey, you aren't doing your job, so maybe these guys will, even if we don't like them all that much. And that right there was trouble for the Democrats from the beginning - that Americans were willing to vote in a party they know screwed things up before, in order to punish them now. The Tea Party was a symptom of this, not the solution, or even the driver. It's the canary in the coal mine.

Stephen Harper should be worried because of these results. Sure, Americans voted in an expressedly right-wing party, but I have a bit of a feeling that ideology had little to do with the results of this election. Americans just wanted something to get done, and they felt the Democrats weren't doing it. The problem for Harper is that right now, he's in the same position that the Democrats are - Harper is the incumbent, not the Liberals or Ignatieff.

If the same sentiment creeps into Canada, where our unemployment situation has been a lot better, yes, but it's still very stagnant overall, and where this government has not lived up to its promises of tackling issues dear to Canadians with proper gusto, instead focusing on partisan games and billion dollar jets we don't need, Harper could be in trouble. Ignatieff's own unpopularity as leader could end up being a non-issue, and people could end up voting Liberal simply because they want an alternative to the current government. I've said again and again, the Liberals must be that alternative, and that's how we'll win. But if the election down south of the border can teach us anything, it's that a good portion of elections are not actually won by the opponent, they're lost by the incumbent.

Will it actually happen? It's no guarantee, of course. Harper's been relatively safe because of our strengthened position up here in Canada. That's a good thing for Canada, but fairly bad for the Liberals. It's actually smart on the part of Harper's government to say that we're in a good position, but we're far out of the danger zone. It creates a sense of stability, yet still urgency. The Conservatives through this say, we've helped keep us treading water, but we're not on land yet. If we were sinking, they'd probably face what the Democrats did; if we're on land, the Liberals can campaign effectively on social and non-fiscal issues better than the Conservatives can. It's this semi-crisis mode that keeps them up.

But, the situation can move in either direction, and eventually it will. The Conservatives should be worried when it does.


  1. What an interesting spin. Which party was for smaller government again?

  2. Neither, if you believe actions speak louder than words.

    Besides, again and again, exit polls for every major media outlet said the same thing: it's the economy, stupid. That's why Democrats were thrown out among the Rust Belt states. If the entire issue was big gov vs. small gov, Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Lisa Murkowski, Pat Murray, and other Democrats should have been thrown out handily when compared to their opponents positions on this. Pat Toomey should have won by extraordinary margins, instead of the just-under-2% he did. Yet, this didn't occur, did it?

    The Tea Party is your issue's standard bearer, I get that. And they were successful tonight, I get that as well. 87% of their endorsed candidates won. That's pretty amazing, isn't it? But, when we look at it really hard, why do you think those endorsed candidates, incumbents, open seat candidates, and challengers all, won? Because people just loved the idea of getting rid of medicare and social security?

  3. This is beyond the tea party movement. Independents went for Obama and Democrats showed up in 2008.

    In 2010 the registered Rep showed up, independents swung to Republicans, registered Democrats were down 1-2%.

    I agree the Conservative can be harmed if they are framed as reckless spender and wasters of taxpayers money.

    The one factor your missing is in the US they spent $ four billion in the mid terms.

    The Liberals will be lucky if they can match the 2008 levels by Dion at $ 5.8 million this year. It costs MONEY to run negative ads and the LPOC can't manage to raise funds from their supporters.
    They are down 1700 donors and $ 600k in the 3rd quarter of 2010. So much for the Liberal Express this summer.

  4. Mind you, Democrats managed to win races handily despite the money thrown at them, eg. California, Nevada, Mass. 5th, Massachusetts overall, West Virginia, and etc. They were also competitive in races like Pennsylvania and Illinois, one with no fundraising advantage, and one with.

    In other words, money might not make everything, especially in a "wave" election. The next Canadian election may end up being the same thing. Would it actually happen? I don't know, and I'm kind of leaning towards "no," but let's not assume a monetary advantage is key to everything, eh.

  5. Money is important but not only thing. Ground game see Calgary and Toronto Mayor elects.

    The LPOC don't have either. (Sorry it true) Dalton/Charest have money as incumbents and GOTV.

    The point is neither provincial Liberal Premier will be an ASSET when the campaign is called. Do you think any of the three ridings will benefit from Ignatieff or J.T. visiting?

    Numerous polls show Ignatieff is the weakest of all three leading federal parties. He has the lowest support from his own voters.

    The same problem with Dion-Ignatieff took place. No money to define him and others did. The numbers in 2010 reflect the organization and his management.

  6. The Dems lost because they weren't 'listening' to the people. The people didn't want nationalized health care, they didn't want trillion dollar bail-outs to big corporations and unions. They didn't want to be 13 trillion dollars in debt before Obama leaves office. The Tea Party is certainly a symptom of a very unhappy population, but the REASON they are un-happy had been completely ignored by the Dems. It's not much more complicated than that.

    As for Harper, he is not perfect, but most critical thinking Canadians already know that the LPC or the NDP would be far worse than Harper's Conservatives with the public purse if given the cheque book. We absolutely know it.

    National child care? Are you kidding me? We could afford that how, exactly? Gutting the Armed Forces again? Taxes being raised? 8% GST?

    God help us if Iggy or a coalition between Layton and Iggy... Even in booming economic times, we simply can't afford to have those guys in charge of the treasury. We need less social programs and much smaller Government. We need lower taxes and huge cuts in spending. The Provinces need to be paying for all these social programs if they want them, not Ottawa. Socialist utopia will be the END of us, not save us. When do Liberals and Dippers figure out that the countries with LESS welfare do much better than those that do? Does Greece ring a bell? Western countries are all heading for a cliff because we fund social programs at the expense of economic reality. People who pay less tax and have less Government in their lives prosper over the Nanny-state.

    Socialism has a -1000 batting average. The only time it works is before the treasury runs out of money, but it is always heading that direction no matter the country in question. Some just last longer than others.

    People who get to keep most of their own hard-earned money know best how to spend it. Those that want to squander their own treasure should pay the price for their poor choices, not everybody else.

  7. Yes Harper should heed the elections to the south - keep pushing for less government, less taxes, less intrusion. Difficult to do in a minority and keep power because of the vested interests. It has nothing to do with "incumbents" and everything to do with high taxes, unaccountable spending and national security.

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  9. "the Republicans are actually less favourable to Americans than the Democrats. "

    Over in the real world, a landslide victory of 60 seats means they're actually more favourable to Americans.

    Sorta reminds me of 'Comical Ali' - "there are no US tanks in Baghdad!" as they pass by in the background.

  10. Dante,

    Never read the polls, did we? That's OK. I don't expect critical thought. Not at all.


    I have no doubt that small gov vs. big gov played a part in the GOP win, but don't kid yourself - the American public waffles back and forth between wanting the government to do more, and wanting the government to do less, every couple of years. This has a helluva lot more to do with incumbents than pure ideological bickering. Americans are not bloody Randians.


    Thank you for your opinion. But I think you'd be a lot happier at this blog.

  11. CanadianSense,

    For one, you're the one making sense. Strange.

    Anyways, I've said it before, I think you really underestimate the operations of the LPC. I saw the mess going on back in 2008, and today it's very, very smooth, at least compared to then. I'm sure its nothing close to the Chretien/Martin era.

    However, your point is basically that the LPC has nothing going for it. The Dems at least had organization, and could win against the monetary advantage of the GOP. That makes sense. I'm not quite sure what the "Calgary and Toronto ground games" have to do with it, because the winner in one had a relatively good operation, while the other actually did not. But OK.

    Yet, you admit that the Conservatives shooting themselves in the foot economically would put them pretty much over the tipping point. That's the entire point, no? The Democrats had a relatively strong ground game, evident in places like Nevada or New York or even Florida (where they still lost but came very close in the gubernatorial race), one you could say that was even stronger than the Republican's, yet they still lost overall, especially in the House. Negative incumbency can hurt pretty badly, that much is clear.

    My point is simply that if the Conservatives fall back far enough, even the Liberals who have an unpopular leader (like the GOP) could make some serious gains, even to the point of winning a minority outright. That's a possibility that cannot be discounted. It's not necessarily going to happen, but still.

  12. Harper should be very happy . . . Ford in Toronto and now Obozo getting ass-whupped in the USA.

    The rise of conservatism . . . the death of liberalism & other forms of lefty crapola

  13. "59 to 65 seat swing for the party, a historic amount,"

    That would be a historic NUMBER.

    —Can be confused:  amount, number (see usage note at this entry ; see synonym and usage notes at number).

    —Usage note
    The traditional distinction between amount and number is that amount is used with mass or uncountable nouns ( the amount of paperwork; the amount of energy ) and number with countable nouns ( a number of songs; a number of days ). Although objected to, the use of amount instead of number with countable nouns occurs in both speech and writing, especially when the noun can be considered as a unit or group ( the amount of people present; the amount of weapons ) or when it refers to money ( the amount of dollars paid; the amount of pennies in the till ).

    Oh, and I think it was an anti communist vote that prevailed.

  14. Fred,

    Again - Altas Shrugs, more for you. They provide the free koolaid!

    Hello Birdy,

    Um, okay.

  15. I will ignore the cheap shot and try again to allow the numbers to do the talking. My observations are based on public information and not on a bias of Dion vs Ignatieff leadership myth.

    Liberals thing changing leaders makes a difference, I don't. (Messiah complex)

    Fourth down and 100 yards to go: I have said Dion got scapegoated. 2010 will validate my thesis about the numbers in fundraising.2009 had convention and leadership donations in the system allowing it to be skewed.Your party will need to raise nearly $2m to beat the 2008 level of $ 5.8m. It will need to raise $4m to match 2009. Dion has 30,890 donors in 2008. Liberals added 7k in 2009. In 2010 it may drop back to 35k.

    Elections Canada has the numbers and Pundits Guide has the total donors and money raised by each party in a easy to read format.

    In 2000 A Non-Partisan Report was done on the Liberal Party and has been repeated. The Anatomy of the Liberal Victory-Defeat (name change for obvious reasons.

    It talked about advantages in size (base) and other measurable things like demographics voting blocks including Catholics.

    My analysis is relying on the same guidelines and not a recent order of plaid shirts and a bus tour.

    Money is critical in national campaigns, can't fake it. I disagree Calgary and Toronto were both not equally well run. Calgary had his full campaign vetted before the race began and was active in the community. The traditional MEDIA-Pollsters failed to pick up his numbers or reach did not mean it was not there.

    They did not tap into the desire in voters in NB, Toronto or Calgary.

    I have said in the US the pollster are MUCH better. They have breadth and depth of data points, in Canada we don't. (Full stop)

    In Toronto the negative frivolous feeding frenzy against Rob Ford did the opposite and give him publicity that he could not afford to buy. His voters are not Toronto Star bike lane latte sipping activists rallying how to save the polar bears.

    California,Nevada and New York are equivalent to Toronto and Montreal Island Liberal strongholds. (No one can predict with 100% how the campaigns will GOTV with their organization)

    George Soros or Meg Whitman money can not buy an election. It takes people on the ground and support from independents to swing in your camp.

    The Dems were down 1-2% and youth did not rally. The Rep showed up and independents went heavy into Rep candidates. (that's it)

    This WAS NOT a Republican victory as it was a rebuke of the last four years by Nancy Pelosi and her agenda. The Dems were NOT destroyed in raw votes they simply lost a few points and that was enough to swing the seats.

    Same in Toronto G.S. has good numbers of raw voters but Rob Ford broke the record and pulled in the most. (Possibly ever-not sure)

    The historic shift was equivalent to 1938 when you factor in all the seats.