Monday, November 27, 2006

What's in an Endorsement?

In short: Nothing.

In an actual general election, endorsements can mean a lot. The average citizen, who isn't all that interested with day-to-day politics, will read the newspaper or turn on the television, see an old politician who they liked and respected coming out in support of a candidate, and say "That's good enough for me... he knows best, never led us wrong before", and they'll go vote for the endorsed candidate.

In a PARTY Leadership race, though, there are 2 types of voters: Voters who follow the day-to-day stuff, and will make up their OWN minds, and voters who were courted by a specific candidate to join the party in the first place. If that candidate continues onto the next ballot, this voter MAY show up to support them again.
But if he's gone, then whatever he promised them (say, a Vietnamese Community Centre, off the top of my head) is also gone, and so is their impetus to go vote on Saturday.

So I don't put too much stock into the endorsements we're hearing in the past few days for Stelmach. It may be a useful weather vein, to show us which way the wind is blowing, but in the "one member, one vote" system the PC's have for selecting a leader, there is just miles and miles of real estate between "I endorse Ed" and "All the people who voted for me are going to come out again on Saturday and vote for Ed".

To my mind, the endorsements aren't NEARLY as important as new membership sales this week. Nobody's endorsing Morton (nor SHOULD they be), but his campaign is hitting every church group and dialing every number on the Alberta Alliance membership list, trying to sell those memberships and get the vote out on Saturday. I don't see that happening, at this point, in the Dinning or Stelmach camps, although an "Anybody But Morton" movement (also referred to as "In favour of modern civilization and aware that the 1940's are long over") could make some hay in this week - problem being, there are 2 candidates to choose from who aren't Morton, and telling people to vote strategically to keep Morton out just isn't going to work - Stelmach people might list Jim as their 2nd choice, but will NEVER jump ship and chose Dinning over Stelmach. Dinning people are somewhat less solid, but they've been hearing of Jim's impending victory for several years now, and it'll be hard in the next few days to convince them it's not going to happen,and park their votes with Stelmach.
So those new, "soft" members (like liberals concerned about Premier Morton) have to choose who to vote for between Ed and Jim, while Ted's supporters have no such choices to make.

A debate on Wednesday, if reports are true, could prove interesting, but again (barring anything explosive happening) I don't see current party members moving from their current positions. Everyone with a membership card either has already chosen which of the 3 to support, or has no intention of ever using their card again, now that the candidate who bribed ERRRRRR made the membership available is out of the race. Tomorrow, I'll try to break down what each campaign has to do to win this thing. If the promised debate goes forward, I'll break it down on Thursday and Friday.

- ES


Anonymous said...

ES, here's a comment I just posetd to Ken Chapman's blog. Wouldn't mind knowing your thoughts on the questions I raise.


I enjoy the number crunching, reading the tea leaves of voter migration and drop off, but wonder about its usefulness in predicting Ed's finish on Saturday.

Two thoughts.

One, stuff happens. The news of federal MPs parachuting into Alberta to fight for Morton the Menace can only hurt Stelmach's chances of the all-important second place finish on Saturday, as moderate progressive conservatives move to Dinning as a stop measure. A now vastly more polarized campaign plays to the two front runners on the first ballot, squeezing out the middle ground. Would you agree?

Two, the inexplicable thinking and unpredictable behaviour of the voter. Numbers can paint the picture of the voter psyche in broad strokes, but it's a volatile and fluid picture all the same.

Great example, and my second question for you today: I've spoken with a number of Ed's supporters who won't be putting Jim on their ballot as their second preference. They don't want Morton, but they're leaving the second spot blank. Huh? I'm certainly putting Ed as mine, to support him against Morton if Jim doesn't make the one/two cut. Help me understand why Ed's people wouldn't think that way, too.

Enlightened Savage said...

Kevin: Thanks for your comment. I'll try to answer as best as I can, and then check over on Ken's blog to see what he could come up with. :)

To your first point, the polarization of this campaign to me is a microcosm of the general polarization that ALL levels of political discourse has undergone in the past 5 or so years. Both here at home and in the U.S., the "big tent" approaches to policy are being replaced by the people with a few key issues, who bind together with others who share the issue. In this particular race, Dinning appeals to Progressives, Morton appeals to Conservatives, and Stelmach appeals to Progressive Conservatives. Where it gets tricky, of course, is that Ed can lose supporters to either guy. Jim can lose supporters to Stelmach, especially if they feel it's the only way to stop Morton. But Ted is extremely unlikely to lose any support to Stelmach - Ted's voters are Ted's voters because of his stance on their issues, which is very different than Ed's stance on those same issues.

As for the preferential ballot, I'll discuss this in more detail later, but to this point I have been unable to find any mathematical reason to NOT make a selection for 2nd preference on this ballot. I can understand not doing so on moral grounds (don't agree with it, but understand it)... but mathematically speaking, it just makes good, common sense for voters of one moderate candidate to list the other as their 2nd choice, just in case...

- ES

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that political discourse is becoming increasingly polarized - although when you read some of the stump speeches in Canadian and American campaigns at the turn of the century, my gosh, candidates were practically calling each other pimps and murderers and the root cause of all human disease.

Having starkly contrasting positions is one thing and acceptable. Negative campaigning, which is not, happens because it's been found to work. The Liberals creamed Stockwell Day with Barney the Dinosaur. The public creamed him with the 22 Minutes "Change His Name to Doris" mock referendum.

When it begins in a campaign of any sort, it elicits a fight-fire-with-fire response that escalates until the whole thing is circling the bowl.

Everything else you say makes sense, too. Thanks for taking the time to reply. Trust you haven't found the back and forth between Ken and I to be uncivil, even if a teensy bit partisan:-)

Enlightened Savage said...

Kevin: Bah! If politics themselves have become increasingly partisan, than in most cases so too must political discourse. The parry-and-thrust of political discussion is what initially got me involved with politics, before I realized I would EVER have any interest in policy.

As for you and Ken - you both make good points, and argue passionately for your point of view. I would think that your back-and-forth would be seen as a GOOD thing by most people, who might be thinking something but not really be sure what the counterpoint would be.

Besides... we can't ALL be paragons of non-partisanship. ;)

- ES

Anonymous said...

ES: I accept your Bah! With contrition. My feelings MIGHT have been hurt if you had added the Humbug:-)

The dance of ideas IS exciting and can be a stimulus and guide to personal action.

My only caution was that sometimes the steel in the parry-and-thrust can draw real blood. That seems unhelpful, especially when it's done cruelly, with genuine intent to harm.

Of all the blogs I've read this campaign, Ken's, yours and albertatory have been the most satisfying. Articulate and witty in all cases, partisan in some respects (highly acceptable), and always intellectually well-rooted and evenhanded (even more so). Street cred galore, in sum.

I know Ken and albertatory will continue sharing their thinking and commentary after this campaign.

Can I hope you will, too?

Enlightened Savage said...

Kevin: You can take it to the bank. :)