07 March 2014

Shawn: Prince of Denmark #nlpoli

The provincial New Democrats have dropped to single digits among respondents to the latest Corporate Research Associates quarterly omnibus poll.*

Other than that everything in the party choice results is the same as it was before Christmas. 

For the Conservatives – up by three points, but well within the margin of error of 4.9% for the unadjusted party support figures – the party has been at the same level in the polls since last May.
CRA Q1-14

For the Conservatives, the apparently believe that the rise in satisfaction numbers are proof of their unshakeable belief that the past few years have all been just a bad dream. Some have even taken the small change in party support numbers as proof that things are turning around for the party.

Maybe they are. 

Most likely they aren’t. See the Abacus poll in February for the reasons why not.

For the time being, though, everything appears to the Conservatives to fit with their recovery plan:  dump Kathy, have a busy legislative agenda with lots of good news,  hold quick leadership victory for the carefully selected candidate followed by a general election as early as the fall of 2014, polls permitting.

The carefully selected candidate would be Frank “The Godfather” Coleman.  As the story inside Tory circles has it,  the day that Bill Barry announced his candidacy,  Danny Williams and his pals started hunting for a candidate of their own to keep Barry out of the Premier’s Office.  The  guy they quickly settled on was Frank Coleman.  Since Coleman’s name surfaced, all the supposed candidates other than Bill Barry have been dropping out of the race like flies.

The choice hasn’t been without its problems.  As Des “Uncle Gnarley”  Sullivan posted on Thursday,  the backroom deal has had a couple of snags. For one thing, Coleman is apparently having second thoughts about running since public speaking isn’t his thing.  For another, at a cocktail reception in Corner Brook during a recent cabinet retreat, Coleman stayed “for 90 minutes; Bill Barry is reported to have stayed until midnight and left in the company of several Ministers.[sic]”

Sullivan insists that we shouldn’t count former cabinet minister Shawn Skinner out of the race yet.  Skinner is apparently hanging on to see if Coleman drops out. Sullivan notes, however, that Williams remains the gatekeeper to the Tory leadership just as he was in 2010.

And that’s one of the reasons why your humble e-scribbler thinks Skinner isn’t going to run.  Williams has already weighed Skinner and found him wanting, despite the qualities – experience and presentability – that Sullivan rightly noted in his post.  If Coleman bails,  everyone knows that Skinner was not the first and maybe not even the second or third choice of Williams and the power brokers inside the Conservative Party.

What’s more telling about Skinner’s prospect as Premier, though, is that Skinner isn’t acting like a leader.  He may be quick to insist that he is not out of the Conservative leadership race, but he has not been willing to say he is in. And that makes all the difference in the world.. That is the most telling thing about Skinner:  he hasn’t given any sign he wants the job.  Worse, he has openly expressed doubts about his ability to raise the money to run.

The result is that Skinner looks weak and indecisive.  Skinner seems more like a guy auditioning to be Hamlet than considering a run at the biggest job in the province.  “To be or not to be a candidate”, wonders Skinner. ‘B’ys, I don’t know. let me think about it for a bit more.” 

Meanwhile, Bill Barry has been aggressively campaigning.  If Sullivan is right, Barry has been charming some cabinet ministers.  If he has a good team, Barry also has the chance to pick up control of a a batch of district associations and the votes at the leadership contest that go with them. 

Barry wants the job. If Skinner wanted it – really, seriously wanted to be Premier - he’d already be in the race.  Skinner would be knocking on doors.  He’d be travelling around the province picking up support.  Odds are he’d be getting it. And if by some chance, Danny and his pals wanted to put someone else in the top job, Skinner would be in a far better position to negotiate a strong role for himself in a Coleman administration than he is in now.

Nominations for the Conservative leadership contest close a week from today at noon Newfoundland Standard Time.  Most likely, there will be two candidates at the end:  Bill Barry and Frank Coleman.  Regardless of which one wins,   he’ll have a tough job ahead of him if he wants the job for longer than the Conservatives have left in their 2011 mandate. 

As it seems, only one of them actually does.  It will be fun to see if that guy wins.


*  CRA presents its party choice numbers as a share of decided voters.  Using some simple math, SRBP presents CRA's numbers as a share of all responses.  In the most recent poll, the NDP are at eight percent of all responses.