17 January 2011

Tory angst might be well founded

Conservatives across Newfoundland and Labrador seem to be in a bit of a tizzy. Danny Williams’ sudden departure has the caucus so spooked they are trying to engineer a backroom deal to avoid a leadership contest.

On some level you have to wonder why they might be so uptight.  After all, to casual observers they would appear to be guaranteed an easy victory in October’s general election with or without the Old Man.

But then you see things like an online poll at The Western Star:  “If you were a Danny Williams supporter, are you less likely to vote PC now?”

So far, 46% of respondents are saying yes, they are less likely to vote Tory. 15% say they are more likely to vote PC and the remainder  - 39% – answered “no”.

Even in the government’s own polls, Danny always ran way ahead of the party.  In the most recent government poll, though, support for the party dropped about 10 percentage points compared to a poll done three months earlier. That wasn’t good even when people thought Danny would still be around for the fall election.

Now that he’s gone, things will likely turn out very differently.  People who barely won their seats at the peak of supposed Danny-mania in 2007 might not have such an easy time of it in 2011.  They might need a boost, like say from a cabinet appointment, to try and counteract the loss of Danny Williams’ entire coat.

Stop and think about it for a second, though, and the long term trend of Danny running in front of his party’s support and the Western Star online poll are pointing in the same direction.  It would make sense that people who had voted Conservative in the recent past would now be thinking about shifting their vote.  They were Danny Tories, as it were, not committed Tories.

All that would lead explain why Conservatives in the province are a wee bit out of sorts these days. 

And if the number of soft Tory votes is actually close to the 46% the Star found, then politics over the next eight or 10 months is going to be way more interesting than anyone suspects right now.

- srbp -