24 February 2011

Dippers fear Byrning In St. John’s East #cdnpoli #nlpoli

Your humble e-scribbler made a comment on Thursday in response to another comment by Conservative strategist Tim Powers about the potential Jerry Byrne had to give incumbent New Democrat Jack Harris a tough run:

W/ feud over, trad vote patterns spell tough fight for Harris if not defeat.

That garnered a pretty quick and pretty sharp retort from Sally Housser, the NDP press secretary that the comment was “categorically ridiculous.”  She followed up with a recitation of the vote percentage’s from the last federal election.

That would be wonderful if it actually mattered.

The vote results in the 2008 were an anomaly, a one-off.  That’s because Danny Williams and some of his fellow provincial Conservatives waged an effective campaign to suppress the Conservative vote or to drive it to Liberal or New Democratic party candidates.

In St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, the Connies actually defied Williams and voted New Democrat.  Now that might seem strange to some people but you have to appreciate the extent to which local Conservatives in St. John’s are basically Tory by anti-Confederate or anti-Smallwood heritage.  If they don’t vote Tory, they will vote New Democrat before they will vote rouge.

Meanwhile in St. John’s East, the New Democrats profited by running Danny Williams old law partner and they got a double-whammy bonus from the Liberal candidate whose campaign imploded based on his own baggage. It’s not surprising, therefore that Harris swept the seat with a gigantic percentage of the votes cast.

But what are the usual voting patterns in St,. John’s East, the ones more likely to come back now that the feud is over and all is well in the Conservative corner? Take a look at this chart from an earlier post on the 2008 election results.


Basically you can lop off about 15,000 votes from Jack’s vote for starters.  That reflects the people who voted Connie before but who switched in 2008 based on the conditions at the time.

Suddenly the race looks a wee bit different.

And Jack Harris’ personal support?

It might count for something but people who think that even half of that 31,000  went Dipper because people love Jack might want to give their heads a good shake. 

In other words, in that straight match-up Jack Harris would basically have a tight race and conceivably could lose. He’s going to face a very aggressive Conservative candidate in Jerry Byrne.  Byrne’s a successful local businessman with a reputation for being hyper- energetic.  He’s got deep roots in the provincial Conservative party.  He’ll have a strong locally-based machine that will ensure Conservative voters get to the polls. Add to that the likelihood that Byrne would be a natural cabinet selection in a future Conservative administration and you can see a tough fight shaping up in the East.

Now the one wild card here is the Liberal.  Just like Jack can’t count on local Conservative support next time, Jack Harris also can’t count on a Liberal candidate with a penchant for self-immolation.  There’s no Liberal candidate even rumoured at this point although Ignatieff major domo Paul Antle would have to cough up a candidate or run himself.  Antle did very well when he ran before and that too might pose a bit of a problem if he can bleed off any of the support from one side or the other.

As it stands right now, Jack Harris will have a fight to win re-election in the next federal election.  This is not to say Harris is already dead; it’s just to say that he will have to wage a hard fight to win.

The Dippers know that, by the way.  You can tell they know by just exactly how quickly their press secretary jumped on the suggestion Jack would have to campaign. The New Democrats are obviously afraid of getting Byrned in St. John’s East.

- srbp -