CuriosityCat: Poll Tracker: Harper 125 Mulcair + Trudeau 211 = New Government on October 19

Here’s the stark facts of the state of play from today’s CBC/308 Poll Tracker:

Note that Harper’s Conservatives are still far short of a majority, the only way that Harper will remain prime minister, given the emphatic rejections by both Mulcair and Trudeau of either opposition party voting confidence in a Harper minority government.
So Harper needs to reach the magical number of 170 seats to stay in power after election day October 19.
And notice that in Ontario, the projected seat total for the Liberals and Conservatives are almost equal today – 53 Conservative, 50 Liberal – with the NDP picking up 18. That’s a decline of 20 seats for Harper’s ‘new’ Conservatives in Battleground Ontario. AND THAT’S WITHOUT ANY MEANINGFUL STRATEGIC VOTING BY LPC AND NDP VOTERS IN TORY-HELD RIDINGS!

Flip through the Poll Tracker regional seat projections. Note the decline in Conservative seats right across the country?
No place is safe for the Harper brand.
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CuriosityCat: The Debates: Who won, who lost, and why

Trudeau: The Fighter

Let’s start with the view of how Tom Mulcair behaved in the Munk foreign policy debate, from Gerald Caplan:

But if I remove my mask of detachment, I must report that it was not at all the night the NDP needed to recover its faded lead. But there’s still three weeks left – a lifetime in politics. We have the most polarizing and, yes, dangerous, government in Canadian history and we have the NDP positioned to take advantage of it. Yet the NDP focuses its attacks far more on Mr. Trudeau and gives the government almost a free pass. A huge mistake, in my view. And not too late to change, by any means. It ain’t over till it’s over, in baseball or politics.
And Caplan’s conclusion about Mulcair’s performance in the debates?
Each of his debates have proved disappointing, when they were supposed to seal his deal with the electorate. I fear the deal is almost becoming null and void.
The Two Big Dogs & The Kid:
Eric Morse has a good summary of the Munk Debate:
This time, there was political blood in it.
That reflects the reality of all the political debates. They all had political blood in it.
The betting by most commentators prior to the first debate was that the order of competency in debating was clear: Harper was the Big Dog.

Then, close on his heels, came Mulcair.

And Trudeau? Most thought it would be a victory for him if he did not fall flat on his face while walking to the podium; once there, if he did not collapse like a squeaky and ill-tied birthday balloon; and during the one-on-one segments, if he could snatch a small portion of the air time away from the two debatemeisters.

What went wrong?
The main thing that happened to the two Big Dogs was that they underestimated the competence of Justin Trudeau.
Way back in January this year, Samuel Getachew got it right:
Trudeau has the luck of being underestimated, like Jean Chrétien was, and the intelligence to turn to experienced people the way Pierre Trudeau and Lester B. Pearson did. Perhaps like all Liberals, there is the will to win in his blood. Given his family pedigree, perhaps the will to win is not only powerful but predestined. Yet if he achieves victory, it will not be just because of his last name, but because he works hard, performs well, knows his weaknesses, and plays to his strengths.
And Brian Mulroney warned the Conservatives in early October of this same strategic blunder:
Speaking to the Globe and Mail’s editorial board on Wednesday, Mr. Mulroney said he believes Mr. Trudeau is a strong candidate who shouldn’t be underestimated. “He’s a fine young man, he’s going to do well,” he said. “And I’ll tell you: People who underestimate him, they do so at their own peril.”

He said he considered Mr. Trudeau’s father to be a “very tough, able man,” adding, “You know, the apple sometimes doesn’t fall far from the tree. He certainly has some of the grit of his dad, and he’s obviously got, as well, he obviously has some of the qualities required to win an election.”

The War of the Brands – The Fighter versus the Not Yet Ready Kid:
Trudeau summed up his view this way:
“Let’s be very clear. My fists will be up. I am a boxer,” he said.
Which brings me to the Battle of the Brands.
Trudeau has clearly won this battle. Harper spent a fortune trying to frame Trudeau as  the son of wealth, without intrinsic judgment, and just “not ready.”
And how did Trudeau react?
By putting up his own brand against the Harper framing. And that brand reached back into his youthful days, when he started boxing. He burst out of the leadership gate with his boxing match against a bigger, heavier, supposedly better boxer. He trained hard; kept his counsel; and then whipped the man everybody thought would beat him.
And in doing so established the brand of Trudeau the Fighter.
Note that before every debate, the media gets the chance to see Trudeau in a boxing ring. That’s not just by chance.
Trudeau is reinforcing his brand as The Fighter every time he does this.
And it works in three ways.
First, it works for him. His stints in the ring before every debate shore up his own view of himself as a fighter. When he ran for MP in a riding that was not a Liberal stronghold, he fought hard. He did his homework (training). He spent time speaking to voters in the riding (personal research). He built up a membership from scratch, and kept it running like a well oiled machine (setting targets and dedication).
Secondly, both Mulcair and Harper had fallen into the trap that so often catches married couples in a loveless marriage: they cannot stand each other, but need each other to define themselves.
With Harper isolating himself from any real contact with real people (his almost paranoid meetings with pre-vetted party members; his setting limits to media questions; his banning other MPs in his party from saying anything in public except PMO speaking points; his performances in question period in the House, carefully scripted and supported by mindless baying of otherwise voiceless MPs), he is ill-equipped for any real debate.
And with Mulcair being the leader of the opposition, with the right to most air time in the House after Harper, the trap was set for both men. They fought each other, in the abnormal conditions of Question Period in the House. No real free for all debate, but set times on set topics. Mulcair relished this because he saw it as putting Trudeau in the shadows, and allowing Canadians to see the only two genuine contenders for PM in action in the House.
With every question period, the webs of the trap around these two men were spun tighter and tighter. They bought into their assessments that really they were the only two genuine contenders for the top job in the nation.
Despite the warnings not to underestimate Trudeau, neither Harper Mulcair took him seriously.
And they still don’t.
So when Trudeau the Fighter stepped into the debate rings, he surprised both men, and many Canadians. He fought. And he fought skillfully, with a rapid mind, a lot of homework, and a value system that was his own pathfinder in his political career.
He attacked, much to the surprise of Harper and Mulcair, who both expected him to know his place, wait his turn, and try not to fall flat on his face.
And when he was attacked, much to their surprise he counter punched, devastatingly and with great impact.
Harper and Mulcair expected to pound a schoolboy into submission with a few hard blows, and then turn back to each other as the main show. Instead, they found themselves outfought by the young man they had underestimated. Trudeau outfought them on debate content. He outfought them on debate style. He outfought them on debate preparation. He outfought them on debate sound bites. He outfought them on choice of battlegrounds. He outfought them on vitality.
And now it is too late for both these two, tired, beaten men.
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CuriosityCat: Is an anti-Orange Wave rising in Quebec?

Abacus has a poll out on September 27 that has very bad news for Mulcair’s NDP. The NDP support in Quebec, its heartland, has plunged over the past week, dropping like a stone, while the other parties are ticking upwards:

And this anti-Orange Wave has dragged the NDP down nationally as well:

In Battleground Ontario, the race has become a two-party race since the middle of August, with the Conservatives and Liberals slugging it out, and Mulcair’s roll-the-dice read my lips: no deficits gambit causing NDP support to slide:

Ontario voters believe that the main job of any national government is to protect the economy, and to make it grow. Mulcair shed the confidence of many when he decided to turn himself into an economic HarperLite candidate; he will not regain that confidence because there is nothing he can do now to change his fatal choice.
What went wrong for Mulcair?
It’s really very simple. Tom Mulcair should have studied Tony Blair’s leadership of the UK’s New Labour Party with just a little bit more application.
Mulcair inherited from Jack Layton a party that was really a party of protest, not of government: the same problem that faced Blair. But Blair set about changing the Labour Party in a different manner to that adopted by Mulcair.
Very early on, Blair understood that his party had to change, in order to appeal to a wider group of voters. As he put it in his autobiography, A Journey: My Political Life:
As the 1980s gave way to the 1990s and the defeats kept coming, I became ever more convinced that there were crucial bits of a governing coalition missing for Labour. Where was our business support? Where were our links into the self-employed? Above all, where were the aspirant people, the ones doing well but who wanted to do better; the ones at the bottom who had dreams of the top? … Where were those people in our ranks? Nowhere, I concluded…
But it seemed that the party and the voters were in two different places, and so the party had to shift against its will. My own feeling, however, was: the voters are right and we should change not because we have to, but because we want to. It may sound a subtle difference, but it is fundamental.
The crux of the matter was the Labour Party and the economy; this was enshrined in the party’s constitution, that called for nationalization of assets. Here’s Blair’s take on just how deep the change in his party had to be:
Clause IV was hallowed text repeated on every occasion by those on the left who wanted no truck with compromise or the fact that modern thinking had left its words intellectually redundant and politically calamitous. Among other things, it called for “the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.” … At a certain level, it meant a lot and the meaning was bad. Changing it was not a superficial thing; it implied a significant, deep and lasting change in the way the party thought, worked and would govern.
Mulcair faced the same problem: how to modernize what was essentially a kind of aged hippy protest movement into a lean, mean fighting machine that would appeal to a wide swathe of Canadian – and very conservative economically – voters.
Mulcair changed the constitution of the NDP to slice out similar nationalization and anti-capitalistic policies and values, true.  But in the process, he failed to communicate the essence of the change to enough voters – especially in vote-rich Ontario. He was too muted; the party slid the changes through and then kept quiet about it. My guess is that Mulcair did not want a vigorous public debate about the nature of the changes within the NDP, because he feared this could split the party and there was not much time left before the next election.
Mulcair should have shouted from the rooftops how much the NDP had changed, taking a leaf from what Blair learned from the best politician of the past fifty years, Bill Clinton:
I always remember him saying, “Don’t forget: communication is fifty per cent of the battle in the information age. Say it once, say it twice and keep on saying it, and when you’ve finished, you’ll know you’ve still not said it enough.”
Mulcair has not done that, and he has run out of time to do it.
Blair had a vigorous internal debate within the Labour Party, and finally forced through the changes, setting the signposts for the election campaign:
The pathfinder was already switched on: growth was the key; investment, not tax cuts; redistribute, but carefully and not touching income tax; keep the middle class onside, but where growth and redistribution allowed, focus on the poorest; then, in time, you could balance tax cuts and spending.
Mulcair seems to be lacking a similar pathfinder for the NDP in this election. He has been left straddling the old NDP and the new NDP he has tried to forge.
And he has not been helped by the publication of a manifesto by diehard socialists, slap bang in the middle of the election, that seem to many to deny the shift Mulcair has pushed for.
So when Mulcair announced read my lips: no deficits, he had not prepared the soil enough for these seeds. The party itself seemed surprised by this channeling of Bush Senior; and his anxiety to appear “safe” economically with this mantra, simply forced him into the straitjacket of a visionless plan for the next four years.
This duality was noticed in Ontario, and many made up their minds that having Mulcair control the country, with all the vast power that our prime ministers have under our style of government, was a high risk choice. Read my lips: no deficitsachieved the opposite result from what Mulcair wanted it to. It increased the perception of a leader who would say anything to get elected, rather than reassured voters who desperately wanted change.
The polls show this change in Ontario. That change is set, now.
In Quebec, something else has happened. Jack Layton was admired for his personal attributes, and became the non-politician of choice as compared to Harper and Duceppe and others. The Orange Wave was not just a protest wave against the sterility of the Bloc-Conservative way of doing things; it was also a vote for a man and his values.
Tom Mulcair is no Jack Layton, and voters in Quebec are now sifting through the differences. Mulcair’s passion is hard-edged, while Layton’s passion was softer, more personal. Mulcair’s pathfinder is not as clear as Layton’s was: you knew with Layton what his basic values were, and felt confident that he would take the country to places consistent with those values. His heart led his values.
Voters in Quebec are not so sure where Mulcair’s heart would lead them, and so they are changing their minds about the NDP as a viable choice for Quebec, and for Canada.
The decisions of the changed blocks of voters in Ontario and Quebec have now altered the election. The range of choices is narrower now.
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