Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gut Check Time

Nation, by now many of you have seen the new polling numbers for the Calgary Mayoral Election.

To sum it up:
McIver 31%
Higgins 28%
Nenshi 16%
All others, combined 9%
Undecided 17%

Let's take a look at what this poll means for our candidates, shall we?

Ric McIver - 31%

This is a worrisome poll for Ric.  He's had a more or less prohibitive lead since the day he announced his intention to run for Mayor.  This is the first time someone's been perceived as being within legitimate striking distance of him - and what's worse, he finds himself in a statistical tie with Barb Higgins, a photogenic communicator with no voting record hanging around her neck like an albatross.  Most of the barbs (lower-case b) in this campaign have been tossed at McIver, as the front-runner.  Higgins has, to this point, remained relatively unscathed.  Further, Ric has seen his share of popular support drop from 43% (September 19th) all the way down to 31% (October 5th).

Is he still winning? Yes.  If an election were held today, would he be our Mayor tomorrow? Yes. But suddenly, a campaign that has been all about defending the 3-goal lead in the third period now finds itself up by only 1 goal, on the wrong end of momentum, and watching the clock tick down, nervously.

Barb Higgins - 28%

At first glance, it looks as though Higgins has stalled in popular support - having gained just 1% in popular support since the poll of September 19th put her at 27%.  In the time since, she's attended forums, public events, and released what she calls her comprehensive policy platform - and while the opponent she's trying to chase down has dropped 12% in the polls, Higgins has only gained 1%.

But the important thing here is, she's in a statistical tie with the front runner.  Even having made a change at the top of the campaign team a few weeks ago, she has managed not to lose ground to other, more policy-driven candidates.  Her likability and personal popularity make her less of a target for criticism in the last weeks of the campaign, as pushing too hard against Higgins could earn a candidate the scorn of the public for being a "bully".  What will be MOST interesting to watch is what approach her campaign team takes in the next 12 days - do they go on the offensive, and try to sell Barb to voters? Or do they sit back, try not to mess up, and hope that Ric's downward trend takes him down to 2nd place?

Naheed Nenshi - 16%

Nenshi's camp can look at this number as a reason for optimism, or as a bitter disappointment.  For the candidate who has essentially won the Social Media campaign (other candidates having more or less given up on Twitter, especially, as Nenshi has the #yycvote hashtag as his own personal fan club most days) to have jumped up from 8% on September 19th to 16% in just over 2 weeks is pretty impressive - especially considering the significant amount of time and energy that certain other candidates have spent in the past couple of weeks trying to misrepresent Nenshi's opinions.  Many, however, are concerned that 16% is just TOO far back, with 12 days to go.  Naheed will no doubt benefit from the "Anyone but McBarb" sentiment that is present in some circles, but he also stands to lose some soft support to the inevitable strategic voting from folks who like Nenshi, but would park their vote with Barb to keep Ric out, or vice versa.

What can't be helping Nenshi's numbers is the clumsy reporting of the Herald, which took a 2-hour discussion about policy with their editorial board and turned it into 2 headlines about the candidate's race and religion.  Since that story ran, some of the focus has been taken off of his policies and ideas, and those are Nenshi's bread and butter.  What's NOT clear, though, is whether policies and ideas matter as much to Calgarians as Naheed hopes they do.

The Also-Rans - 9%

Bob Hawkesworth, Craig Burrows, Jon Lord, Joe Connelly...  all have found themselves the recipients of ringing endorsements from voters in years gone by.

2010 will not be one of those years.

The candidates themselves are putting on a good face for their campaigns, who are in return redoubling their efforts.  But, even among the True Believers, the numbers don't lie.  The candidates themselves surely realize this.

And so, in the private, back room of campaign offices, or over cold beers in a quiet booth in an otherwise nearly-empty bar, the candidates sit with the campaign manager, perhaps a trusted advisor or 2, and try to figure out what to do next.

They're not likely to drop out - their deposit has been paid, donor money has been spent, and their names are on the ballot. It's too late to do anything about any of that.  Unless one of the present candidates is just GAGA for one of the Top 3 and wants desperately to endorse them - for personal or strategic reasons - we likely won't see anyone dropping out of the race.

What we MAY see is some attacks by proxy.  Sure as heck, the slick political operators in the McIver, Higgins and Nenshi campaigns have already been trying to touch base with their counterparts in the Also-Ran campaigns.  No promises have been made, no offers brooked. 
But all the same, we might see some Also-Ran candidates using the time they have left in the spotlight, and the money they have left, to attack one, possibly even 2, of the top 3.  It's called "attack by proxy" - and, in politics, it's fair game.
  Remember when Liz May got herself included in the televised Leader's Debate, and used her time to reiterate all of Stephane Dion's criticisms of Stephen Harper?  Fair ball.  (Harper correctly predicted just that scenario and, in one of his funnier moments, suggested that to level the playing field, he should be able to have Peter MacKay sit in on the debate as well).

Now, going negative and getting personal has certainly shown itself to be an unsuccessful tactic in this campaign - the campaign that went most negative saw its candidate's "perception" rating suffer a 2-point loss, with no significant rise in voting intention - but, the Also-Rans realize that now, the only thing they have left to lose is their reputations.  For some, it's too late to salvage even that.

If, though, they think they can figure out who is likely to win this thing, and they back that horse either publicly or by attacking the other front-runners as a proxy, they may be feathering their nest for Aldermanic runs in 2013.  After all - what's better than having the incumbent mayor owing you a favour, when you're running to get your old Alderman job back?

At the end of the day, though, all we need to know is this: McIver's going to start talking a LOT more in the next week.  Higgins is going to attack him, and Nenshi is going to try like hell to show up wherever the other 2 are, to show he's ready for prime time.

All the others have no chance.


We'll learn a lot about them by what they do next.

Like whose favour they're trying to curry.

1 comment:

jcphene said...

Attack by proxy eh? Nasty. I thought I was just imagining things, thanks for the enlightenment!