Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fun with Numbers: 2008 Liberal Breakthroughs

After taking a look at incumbency effects over the summer, I can now dig a bit deeper when looking back at the 2008 election.

Specifically, by looking at subregional shifts in support between 2006 and 2008, and the incumbency effect, it's possible to "predict" how the parties should have done in every riding last election. While predicting something that's already happened has somewhat limited value, it does allow us to see where the different parties "over performed" and "under performed" last election.

I'm throwing the air quotes around because I want to get a few caveats out of the way before I post my list of the 10 biggest Liberal surprises of 2008:

1. This is only relative between 2006 and 2008. So the fact that the Liberal vote in Wascana was only 1% above predicted doesn't mean Ralph Goodale isn't lifting up the Liberal vote there - since he ran in both elections, we wouldn't expect a big shift.

2. A lot of this depends on other campaigns. So, for example, the Liberals' "worst" performance relative to their expected vote was in St. John's East. This isn't a knock on the Liberal campaign in St. John's East - there were a lot of Tory votes up for grabs in Newfoundland and the NDP candidate simply did a better job of getting grabbing them.

With that said, here's a look at where the Liberals had their most pleasant "surprises" last election:

1. Haute-Gaspésie-yada yada yada (+18%): Nancy Charest and her team deserve some real props - all three other parties underperformed in this riding, suggesting this total is due more to her campaign's strength, rather than a weak opponent. Unlike, say...

2. Saanich-Gulf Islands (+17%): ...where the Liberals stripped most of these votes away from the NDP (pun fully intended) - Gary Lunn and the CPC finished exactly where they were predicted too, even with the NDP candidate resigning mid-campaign. Moving forward, the question is whether those floating New Democrats return home, stay with the Liberals, or go Green.

3. Labrador (+15%): I don't think it was a surprise that this riding went Danny Williams Liberal. But Todd Russell tacked on 20 points to the 2006 total, which was more than most Newfoundland grits.

4. Madawaska-Restigouche (+14%): After a nail-biter in 2006, Jean-Claude D'Amours ran up the score in 2008.

5. Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor (+13%): See number 3.

5. Parkdale High Park (+12%): Having represented the riding as an MPP for a decade, Kennedy had a lot more going for him last election than most challengers do. And I can report first hand that his local campaign team did an amazing job last election.

6. Abbotsford (+12%): I'm sure local Liberals weren't ecstatic about their 20,000+ vote loss. But here's the good news - the Liberal vote collapsed across BC and your riding actually saw the party's vote share increase. The less good news is that this riding had a big negative residual in 2006...in other words, the "bump" this time around was mostly a correction after a weak showing the previous time.

7. Winnipeg South Centre (+11%): Anita Neville is one of the few incumbents on this list, as she managed to increase her share of the vote, even as the LPC took a hit across Winnipeg.

8. Humber-St. Barbe-BaieVerte (+10%): Another one of those wild Newfoundland swings. I think the moral of the story is that, when things swing, they swing in unpredictable ways.

9. Laurentides-Labelle (+9%): Pierre Gfeller nearly doubled the Liberal vote here, from 2006.

10. Newton North Delta (+9%): Even though BC was quite inhospitable for the Liberals in the last campaign, this riding remained a warm comfy mat with lots of fur, for Sukh Dhaliwal.

11 to 20: Peterborough, Cypress Hills-Grasslands, Nipissing-Timiskaming, Random--Burin--St.George's, St.John's South-Mount Pearl, Westmount-Ville-Marie, Yukon, Guelph, Ottawa South, Portneuf-Jacques Cartier

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