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Saturday, September 04, 2004

We had bad polls, too 

To my American friends: a note about polls.
The Time and Newsweek polls are pretty discouraging, I admit.
But its still 8 weeks to the election. Come November, no one will remember what anyone said they might do on Sept. 2.
During the Canadian election campaign, which was only a month long, the Martin liberals had lots of bad polls -- from the beginning, the polls showed a close race, and about two weeks into the campaign, it looked as though Harper was winning. Martin didn't even "win" the leaders debate a week before the vote.
But, on election day, the Liberals elected 130 seats and the Conservatives about 95 (sorry, I cannot tell you the exact numbers because my computer is working so slowly it would take forever to call up the right references).
The key problem, for Harper, was when he started swaggering -- talking about who would be in his cabinet and the like. Many Canadians had been flirting with the idea of supporting him -- a likeable guy, good looking, energetic. In comparison, Martin looked sort of old, and he was dragging behind him a lot of scandal from the Chretien administration. But Martin got the nod in the end because he had "just enough" support to carry the liberals in a number of close races. So it didn't matter that the Conservative majorities in Alberta were huge. Basically, "just enough" people spread out across the country could not support Harper's brand of radical conservatism.
The bad polls had another effect -- they energized Martin -- for the first time in his life, he threw himself into campaigning, pounding home his messages, speech after speech, rally after rally. And oh, wasn't everyone still telling him he was doing it wrong, that he had the wrong messages! But HE believed in what he was saying, and it came through.
On the last day of the campaign, he flew coast to coast, walking in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The national press corps was pissed -- they had expected to be able to quit early on the last day, instead they had to follow Martin on a dawn til dusk odessey, ending in BC at midnight and still having to fly home from there. But this, for Canadians, sealed the deal -- it was a stunt, but people liked it.
So be of good cheer, Americans. Polls do not an election make.

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