Warren Kinsella says it will, as are most Sun columnists. Even the notoriously Liberal-leaning Star thinks it'll fall into Harper's cold, steely grip. So is there any real hope left for the Liberals in Vaughan?
Call me naive, but I personally think that Tony Genco has a fighting chance in the riding. Fantino's star power aside, there's not much to offer in the way of a Conservative organization in Vaughan. What they have is the central party throwing the kitchen sink at the riding, calling in celebrity endorsements and keeping Fantino's positive name recognition from going to the shitter because of a stupid things he may end up saying, employing the famous "Dianne Haskett" strategy. Does this sound like a confident party machine to you? The media certainly makes it seem like it is.
But regardless, there's something I think a lot of these pundits are missing: the Liberals aren't exactly dead in the riding. Not by a long-shot. And it isn't because of Genco's amazing star power, or because the Liberal Party has done an amazing job keeping the riding on its radar, but because of cold, hard, and simple district politics.
In my first half-interesting post on Vaughan, I explained why it is the Liberals have the advantage here based simply on Bevilacqua's ability to win polls and get-out-the-vote in 2008. There is such a large base in Vaughan for the Genco campaign to have worked off of that it's impossible to not notice. Liberal support came out in all the right places, and if the Liberals did anything right in this by-election, they're working on those same areas again. Fantino might have the name recognition, but Genco's campaign has the numbers. Who's to say that smart strategy can't beat out flashy gimmickry?
But, consider this, as well: Fantino's name recognition is a double-edged sword. He has supporters, and he doesn't. He has people organizing direct campaigns against him, however pathetic they may be. He's not a saint by any means, and the voting population of Vaughan knows this. Parties, including the Liberals, want him because they think his name recognition is enough to win, but what if Fantino's name works in the opposite direction, and turns more people off than on? This is a risk no doubt that all parties considered, and the Conservatives decided to run with it. It may backfire yet.
What about Genco's own media star power as well? He may not be as well known as Fantino in Vaughan, but the Liberals, and Genco himself, are out there, trying their best to combat the notion that name recognition = hardworking MP. Surely, for those even interested in voting in the by-election, Genco's face popping up everywhere must make its mark.What of the Sorbara endorsement? One of the most prominent and popular politicians in Vaughan must surely be a boon to Genco's campaign, especially given that Sobara is a provincial Liberal, whose government heartily defended Fantino many a time. There is a high presence by the Liberals in media and community, so why should Fantino's name be assumed the best ticket to victory? Such an assumption is foolish.
These are just some of the things I can think of pertaining to this by-election itself. I could go on about recent poll results as well which show a consistent trend of the Liberals and the Conservatives neck-and-neck in Ontario, and how this trend can be reflected easily in Vaughan, or even be rebuffed, given the low turnout we see and the focus on local issues, for either party in either direction. There are thousands of factors going into this election, as there is in all elections, and I find the assumption that Fantino has an easy ride amusing. I don't think he will. If he wins, he'll have to fight for it.
I could be terribly wrong, of course, and frankly I wouldn't be surprised if I was. But it just seems like there is so much more going on than what pundits say there is. Elections, even by-elections, are complicated beasts, and to assume any one outcome based on what I view to be little information is underestimating those beasts.
But, anyways, if Fantino does win, it'll be interesting to see how he won, or more accurately, how the Liberals lost. Only from that kind of information can we learn our mistakes, the gaps we need to fill in, and of course, who we can blame if it all goes wrong. We'll simply have to wait until tomorrow, and hope the voters of Vaughan,as well as Winnipeg North and Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette, make their choices wisely.