23 August 2006

Williams numbers dropping?

All joshing aside, Danny Williams' whining about the upcoming by-election in the St. John's district of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi is one of those curious little things Dan-The-Man does every once in a while that makes people wonder what he is up to.

A bunch of things make the moaning about a by-election stand out from the usual government publicity palaver.

Of course, everyone knows we are in a polling period and so the publicity machine has been cranking out "good news" at a high speed. Stephenville is to get bags of cash, for example, including the announcement of a tire recycling project that won't even be worth announcing until October. There was a release that announced a bunch of meetings had been held and that the magical, splendiferous intergovernmental fisheries working group task force had reached the conclusion to continue meeting. It took 17 meetings of the main group and various sub-groups to arrive at that conclusion.

But this government this polling period seems a bit more testy than usual about the whole process. There was an extra-heavy round of denials last week when the otherwise lack-lustre Liberal opposition pointed out that the Premier's personal publicity machine was working to put happy faces on everything in sight.

On top of that, there's this complaint that somehow the province's New Democrats are gaining a "competitive advantage" in a seat soon to be vacated by the outgoing New Democrat leader, Jack Harris.

Here's the thing. In every by-election and election Danny Williams has been involved in since he took over the Progressive Conservative party in 2001, Williams has been all over the place meeting, campaigning, chatting, speechifying and doing just about anything he can to win. No stops have been left unpulled.

But that was when everything was on the upswing for Dan-The-Man. He could do no wrong; that job was for the evil Liberals. Now, there have been a string of bads news announcements, the odd out-right failure or two like Hebron. A spending scandal splashed across the news media , its tendrils reaching into the top levels of the Williams cabinet. And most recently, recently, the public has been treated to Williams' relentless pursuit of a pointless legal battle over who will run the offshore regulatory board. It's pointless because the process Williams agreed to - twice - picked someone other than the guy Danny supposedly wants in the job.

For a guy who apparently likes to gives new meaning to the word micromanage, it's easy to micromanage in good times. But when crap piles up - and it is piling up - things start to slip.

Like a by-election.

So while Dan-The-Man has been pre-occupied with every problem anywhere, anytime, he just hasn't been able to get into the by-election game. And since his party can't go to the bathroom without his written approval, the entire process just drags along.

For the first time, Danny just can't fight everyone, everywhere all the time. The Dippers have gotten the drop on him in Signal Hill.

But the intensity of the recent polling activity by government and the sheer lunacy of an incumbent government whining about a little by-election suggest there is just one more little aspect to the whole thing.

Danny knows his polling numbers are dropping.

He loves to poll. In the first months in office, he spent a small fortune on a poll almost every month. During the offshore racket with Ottawa his announcements were driven by polling: pull down the Canadian flags. Check it with a poll. When the poll shows overwhelming opposition, put the flags back up.

Once the Telegram started getting the poll results through the province's access to information, the Premier's personal ones appeared to stop; a good guess would be he started paying them out of some other fund. But poll-freaks are no different than any other addict.

All things considered in Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, the whining coming from the Danny-boys could just be a sign not only of their frustration and annoyance and, dare we say, impotence. It could also be a sign of a big drop in their own private opinion polling.

Just thinking out loud.