Monday, May 25, 2009

PC Leadership Websites: Let's Sing a Song for Tim

All of a suden, things have gotten very interesting in the Ontario PC leadership race. As detailled on TLS, Tim Hudak appears to have come down with a bad case of front runners syndrome. Weak membership sales, low fundraising numbers, and a growingly hostile press corps have left Hudak on the verge of becoming the next Jim Dinning.

But, on the bright side, he does have a nice website!

Check out reviews of Randy Hillier and Christine Elliott's sites. Also, seems to be the go-to site for PC leadership news.

Tagline: Right for Ontario

Unofficial Tagline: There's no possible way he can lose. Right? Right? RIGHT?!?!!?

Image: Hudak is the only candidate wearing a tie in his banner photo - read into that what you will. The heavenly white light radiating from around his picture may also be a subtle play to evangelical voters...

The Basics: The site has the standard set-up, although I do like the "get involved" box on the right hand side - they've designed the website as a vehicle to get people engaged in the campaign, and it does a good job of encouraging supporters to do that.

Web 2.0: Hudak has at least put some effort into this side of his campaign, with facebook applications, frequent twitter updates, and an online community on his website. They've also been pushing the "text message update" angle of their campaign - I'm not sure how many numbers they'll get, but I do feel it's worth trying these sorts of things.

Meet Tim: I've never met Tim, and I don't have much against him - he ran a bracketed poll on his website a few years back to find Canada's Greatest Nation, yeah, we're kind of kindred spirits in that respect.

This former Walmart employee (future campaign slogan "everyday low taxes"), was elected as an MPP at the age of 27, and served in Mike Harris' Cabinet. Although not using as many anvils as Randy "common sense" Hillier, Hudak has tried to portray himself as the heir apparent to the Harris legacy, and he has even gotten some help from the former Premier.

Policy: Like many frontrunners, Hudak has been annoyingly cautious in this race, not wanting to step on any toes. And he's starting to suffer from it - when newspapers start using air quotes when mentioning your "vision", it's not a good sign.

There is nothing on his website about what Hudak would do as party leader, other than "unite our party behind a winning conservative plan that can get Ontario working". Well, other than his bold stand against the HST (or, DST, as all the cool kids are calling it these days).

He did come out in favour of dismantling Ontario's Human Rights Tribunals (after Hillier), but that has let Christine Elliott attack him as a supporter of faith-based-funding-the-sequel.

Rating: The campaign may be floundering, but this website is the best of the bunch - 8 out of 10.

Can he win? Hudak has gone from a slam-dunk favourite, to the front runner, to someone with a good chance of winning, in just a few weeks. The leaked membership numbers are not encouraging for Hudak, but when votes are weighted by riding, it becomes more difficult to judge relative strength of the candidates.

Perhaps more alarming for Hudak are the early fundraising numbers. Elliott has raised twice as much cash as him (315k to 154k), and has more total donors (although at 154 to 124, neither one has done a very good job of grass roots fundraising). Those who have followed this blog since the days of Bart Ramson will remember I did first ballot projections back during the 2006 Liberal leadership race, and hit fairly close to the mark. Back in the fall, when I thought we'd have an actual Liberal leadership race again, I dug up the old projections in an effort to tweak the formula, and found that the total number of donors was the best indication of first ballot support - ahead of things like total dollars raised, MP endorsements, ex-officio support, or media attention. Obviously the dynamics of this abbreviated PC race are different, but this isn't a good sign for Tim.

Still, no one will take this contest on the first ballot. So Hudak will need to appeal to Hillier and Klees supporters - as a candidate seen to be right of Elliott he may be able to do just that, but it's always difficult for front runners to generate second ballot support.



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