Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fun with Numbers: The Liberals

As we learned last election, when the political wave rises, it's hard to avoid it. If ever you wanted evidence of just how powerless local campaigns are, look no further than some of the quality men and women who were defeated by phantom candidates who hadn't even set foot in the riding, never mind campaigned there.

But that's not to say local candidates can't make a difference. After all, it's a safe bet that lone spec of red between Winnipeg and Vancouver also known as Wascana would be blue if anyone other than Ralph Goodale had been the Liberal candidate.

It's very difficult to measure the success of local campaigns, but it is possible to get a sense of which candidates did better or worse than expected. To measure this, I've used the same methodology as after the 2008 election. Namely, I've carved Canada up into 30 subregions (i.e. Calgary, Southwest Ontario, Nova Scotia, Northern Quebec, etc) and compared the vote change from 2008 in each riding to the regional swing. So if a given candidate held his support while her party lost 10 points in the region, that's a sign the local campaign had some positive mojo.

With that, I present a list of the 10 Liberal campaigns that most exceeded expectations. The important thing to keep in mind is that this is relative to 2008. People like Gerard Kennedy and Ken Dryden may very well be star candidates who ran top notch campaigns but their residual value for this exercise still comes in around "0" - which is what we'd expect, assuming they ran comparably strong campaigns in the last go around.

So treat this more as a list of ridings that stood out, for a variety of reasons.

1. Winnipeg North (+27 percentage points above expected): No surprise here since I used 2008 and not the by election as the baseline. But even if we give by elections their historical weighting, Lamoureux nets a +10. To become relevant in Western Canada, the Liberal Party needs to find whatever factory made Kevin Lamoureux and order a dozen more.

2. Guelph (+17): Frank Valeriote's vote actually jumped 11 points in Guelph this election, due in part to the collapse of the Greens in this riding.

3. Central Nova (+15): Central Nova makes this list for obvious's not hard to improve upon 0 votes. Central Nova scored a -17 in 2008, so this marks a return to the traditional level of Liberal support..

4. Sault Ste. Marie (+12): While 19% is not a great showing, it still marks an improvement from 2008, at a time when the Liberals were falling everywhere else in Ontario. Still, this riding put up a -7 in 2008, so some of this is nothing more than a "bounce back".

5. Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound (+11): Basically the same story as above.

6. Cumberland-Colchester (+10): The Liberals benefit from the retirement of Bill Casey, who pretty much everyone in the riding voted for in 2008.

7. Don Valley West (+10): This is small consolation for Rob Oliphant, who still finds himself unemployed.

8. Calgary Northeast (+8): This was actually the Liberals' best riding in Alberta, with their support jumping 8 points, to 28%. The LPCA should treat this riding the same way the NDP treated Edmonton Strathcona after Linda Duncan's strong second in 2006. Nominate Stewart early, door knock the riding heavily in advance of the next election, and pour resources into it. At the very least, they can make the CPC play defense in Calgary next time.

9. Avalon (+8): Scott Andrews held his ground, despite the Liberals dropping elsewhere in Newfoundland.

10. Surrey North (+8): Once again, 18% isn't a phenomenal result, but it still marks an improvement from 2008.

Honourable Mention: Kitchener-Waterloo, Papineau, Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough, Ajax-Pickering, Nepean-Carleton, Carleton-Mississippi Mills, Eglinton-Lawrence, Malpeque, Random-Burin-St.George's, Medicine Hat, Westmount-Ville Marie

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