Friday, October 17, 2008

Number Crunching: Sometimes, All Politics Are NOT Local

One of many things I learned working on my first campaign is that whatever your area of responsibility might be - door knocking, sign installation, organizing appearances and debates, calling supporters to get out the vote - you become convinced that what you are doing is what will ultimately win or lose the election for your candidate.

In Halton, a whole number of factors have been blamed for Garth Turner's loss to Lisa Raitt:
The sign people blame whoever it was who stole and trashed hundreds of our signs, as well as the dozens of Jumbotron-sized full colour Raitt billboards installed by hired crews over the final weekend.

The fundraising people blame the buckets of money poured into Raitt's campaign by the federal Conservatives.

Scrutineers blame the Conservatives' use of detailed supporter lists in a carefully orchestrated last minute get-out-the-vote phone blitz, often conducted directly from the polling stations.

The candidate blames, in part, the repeated lies about Liberal tax and child care policies parroted by Raitt during the debates and in her multiple literature mailings.

The campaign manager blames the Conservative bloggers who relentlessly trashed and harassed Garth and herself, as well as the local media who gave Raitt a free pass but could barely contain their glee whenever Garth made some minor stumble.

And one obnoxious prick actually blamed Esther.

While all of these things may have been minor factors (except the last), I have been taking a close look at the totals for other GTA ridings, and I have come to the conclusion that not only was Garth's loss a foregone conclusion given the national and regional trends, but that he actually fared better than Liberal candidates in adjacent ridings despite the personal interest Harper had in ensuring his defeat.

Check this out. This is a comparison between Halton and four other GTA ridings. Two (Oakville and Burlington) are adjacent and actually share a population base and some key demographic characteristics. The other two (Brampton West and Oak Ridges-Markham) have had a similar population explosion and increase in their ethnic and immigrant populations. Three elected a Liberal MP last time, and one managed to barely retain theirs.

And yet the trend was remarkably similar across the board:

It looks a little impenetrable, but to sum up: Between the 2006 and 2008 elections, the Halton Liberal candidate had the smallest loss in percentage vote share and the Conservative had the smallest gain. Similarly, Halton saw the smallest shift in numbers of votes from Liberal to Conservative.

In other words, the Halton campaign did a better job of holding back the blue tide than other similar GTA ridings.

We should all be very proud.

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