Canadian Election: WTF happened? “You have to outrun the bear” and other iron laws of politics
In which I make sense of the Canadian election results, as near as one can…
So a lot of you are asking “WTF happened last night?” How did the Liberals implode and the Tories get a majority?
But that’s a foolish question. It was all right there. It was all in the numbers and the momentum.
Rule #1 of politics: Parties that are flaming out do not come back from the brink.
Everyone saw this coming for the Bloc.
Well, not everyone. Some folks continued to predict 25-35 seats for the Bloc, based on God knows what. How was that result ever possible, with the NDP polling at 40% and the Bloc at 25%?
Final numbers for Quebec:
- NDP 43%, Bloc 23%.
- Seats: NDP 58, Bloc 4.
No, the mystery is why the pundits insisted that the rules didn’t apply to the Liberals.
Pollster Frank Graves of Ekos came pretty close to nailing it: “New Ontario vote splitting favors Conservatives (PDF)”. Graves predicted a Tory win of 61 seats in Ontario, based on 40% Tory and 28% Liberal, NDP 26%.
Final numbers for Ontario:
- Tory 44%, Liberal 25%, NDP 26%.
- Seats: C 73, L 11, NDP 22
But even Graves missed the key point, and that’s the next rule:
Rule #2 of politics: People want to vote for a winner; they hate to vote for someone with no chance in hell.
Sure, a party will hang onto a handful of their die-hard supporters as they sled down the slippery slope into oblivion, but most of their erstwhile supporters are going to seriously consider better options.
This translated into the second-biggest mistake of the campaign: All the pundits who said the NDP support would drop off in the final days, the way it always has before.
When the pundits said, “Oh, the NDP always fades in the stretch”, what they ACTUALLY meant was “Oh, the party running third always fades in the stretch.” They just kinda forgot that this time around it was the Grits in that position.
That would explain the Liberal flame-out… as their softest supporters pulled a perfectly normal “I’d better vote for an actual contender,” and jumped ship to one of the two leading parties.
Which leads me to the biggest mistake of the election: