It was interesting to hear Tom Mulcair try to dodge the issue of how poorly the NDP did in the last two bye-elections, as well as the previous one where they lost Olivia Chow’s former seat. If you are the leader of a party your worse fear is that your vote will collapse and drift elsewhere.
Mulcair is no fool he has lots of provincial cabinet experience, he knows what fate can await a leader if that type of trend continues. Party members and MPs tend to want winners leading them into an election and right now it is Trudeau not Mulcair who has the momentum.
Every election there has been talk about strategic voting in order to stop the Harper Conservatives and we haven’t seen much evidence of that happening or at least it being successful. Usually when we heard the other two parties fighting over strategic voting it was a sign to us that both of them were weak. In our case we wanted both of them about equal so that they would split the vote and thereby give us some wins in closely contested ridings.
In the 2004 and 2005-6 elections my war room attack staff was under strict orders not to go after the NDP during the campaign as we didn’t want to weaken them too much. We even had to get permission to intervene on a riding by riding basis if one of our candidates came to us for assistance against their NDP opponents.
What are the repercussions of a potential collapse of the NDP vote?
1. Mulcair’s tenure and policies will face increased internal scrutiny.
2. The Liberals will probably mount a pre-election push to attract soft NDP votes to themselves in an ABC (Anyone But Conservatives) campaign and this time they will have a chance of that being successful. They may also want to go after the former PC Party vote, using former MP Bill Casey as an example.
3. The Conservatives are left with a few difficult choices. Do they try to find a way to prop up Mulcair in the hope that they will stop the NDP vote from drifting to Trudeau or
4. Do they look at an earlier election date to head off a potential NDP collapse outside of Quebec? An earlier vote would also allow the Conservatives to get ahead of any economic slowdown caused by falling oil prices which could put their economic record in jeopardy. With foreign policy issues dominating the news right now they could also capitalize on Trudeau’s weakness on that front.
All in all it makes for an interesting few months as all of the above gets sorts out.