Monday, February 13, 2012

A Taste of the Danforth By Election

The by election in Toronto Danforth (or, as it must be referred to in every article on the subject, "Jack Layton's old seat") has been called for March 12 March 19. If you're looking for political excitement, by elections may be as good as it gets over the next three years of majority government politics.

By elections are notoriously hard to handicap, but a glance at last year's results makes the favourite obvious:

Layton (NDP) 61%
Lang (Lib) 18%
Koenig (CPC) 14%
Mugnatto-Hamu (Green) 6%

A 43-point margin is daunting, but not insurmountable. After all, three of the seventeen Harper era by elections have seen one party pick up at least 25 points - the NDP in Outremont (+30), the Liberals in Winnipeg North (+37), and the Tories in Cumberland Colchester (+37). There were unique circumstances in play for all three, but the death of the most popular politician in Canada is fairly unique, so a win by the Grits isn't impossible.

But it won't be easy.

While the Liberals held the riding from 1988 to 2004, local demographics favour the NDP. On my nifty regression spreadsheet that projects vote based on demographics, Toronto Danforth is the 16th best NDP riding in the country and the 60th best Liberal riding. The riding has been orange provincially for over a decade, and the Ontario Dippers took it by 23 points in the fall. In short, voters on the Danforth are the type of people who vote NDP and they've tended to vote NDP of late.

That means the NDP will have a lot of votes ID'd on the ground, and a good organization in place - even if many volunteers are distracted by the leadership race. The Grits should be a bit more focused and there are still a lot of Liberals left in Toronto to pitch in, so they should be able to at least match the NDP on the ground. Or at least they would have, had they not given the NDP a one-month head start by waiting so long to nominate their candidate.

That candidate will be Grant Gordon, an ad executive who made a stir online with a humorous nomination pamphlet. Gordon is a fine candidate, but he's not the "star" George Smitherman and other insiders not-too-wisely speculated about last month.

Gordon will be up against an equally solid-yet-unexciting NDP candidate - law professor Craig Scott. Communications consultant Andrew Keyes will carry the banner for the Tories, but they haven't been above 15% on the Danforth since the merger. Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu will once again run for the Greens.

As unpredictable as by elections are, all signs point to the NDP defeating the Liberals, albeit with a reduced margin.

Be sure to check out Pundits Guide for an update on the campaign-to-date.

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  • Danforth has been NDP provincially for longer than just the past 10 years. That area has been electing New Democrats to Queens Park since Jim Renwick won it in 1963! its been an NDP citadel for almost 50 years!

    By Blogger DL, at 12:11 a.m.  

  • Thanks for the referral as well, CG.

    By Blogger The Pundits' Guide, at 9:52 p.m.  

  • Scott is a pretty solid candidate, but there are two grounds for the Liberals to have hope.

    First, a Liberal MP did hold the riding for some time before 2004, so its worth checking out why that was the case, if this is a "NDP riding".

    Second, the tendency of individual Canadian ridings to swing wildly due to changes in candidate dynamics, or for no apparent reason at all.

    Since the party now especially needs all the ridings it can get, if I was running Liberal strategy I would put alot of effort into at least recruiting a good candidate for this riding, and see what happens.

    By Anonymous Ed, at 11:15 a.m.  

  • The real story here is the inability of the Liberals to find a star candidate.

    All the strong candidates looked at it and said, no thanks. Which pretty much shows who they think will win and, worse, may indicate what they think of the future of the Liberal Party.

    Too sad!

    By Blogger Brian Henry, at 9:56 a.m.  

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