Thursday, July 19, 2018

Dougald Lamont - Big win, could have been bigger

I've used this sort of phrase a lot recently, with elections in Mexico and Turkey, that someone won big, but could have won bigger. I want to go into exactly what I mean using Dougald Lamont as my example.

Lamont, as you may already know, is the leader of the Manitoba Liberals. Last night he won a by-election and he will now sit as an MLA, giving his party the 4th seat they need for official status.

The results of the by-election were as follows:

42.0% - 2,625 - Liberal (Lamont)
28.3% - 1,770 - NDP
16.3% - 1,017 - Green
13.4% - 834 - PC

This compares to the last general election, where Premier Selinger's NDP was defeated. He then resigned his own seat - this seat - later on.

42.4% - 3,624 - NDP (Selinger)
25.9% - 2,211 - PC
19.5% - 1,663 - Liberal
12.3% - 1,048 - Green

Comparing the two, the PC Party (which actually ran the same candidate) dropped the most, losing nearly two thirds of its vote, while the NDP only lost half of their vote. The Greens managed a fairly stable raw vote total, but fewer voters means their share of the vote increased. The Liberals, meanwhile, saw the largest increase.

This is a big win. Lamont was last a candidate in 2003, in this riding, where he took 14.4% of the vote.

A victory of 42% vs 28% is nothing to ignore. A more "expected" victory would have been closer to 38% vs 32%. The latter would indicate the NDP could easily win this seat back at the general election, but this margin of victory is far more decisive, and indicates that Lamont and the Liberals will likely hold on to this seat.

Lamont won his leadership against Cindy Lamoureaux, who had been expected to win. To win such an unexpected victory, and then, to win this by-election by such a margin, indicates that he likely has an amount of personal popularity and charm that will serve him well as party leader.

As such, it is the margin of victory that leads this to be a "big" win.

However, this win could have been bigger, and I'd like to examine that in greater detail.

First, this is a seat that is not unfriendly to the Liberals. It was the most Liberal riding in the 1969 election in Winnipeg, and, elected a Liberal in 1973, interestingly, by 1 vote, over the NDP candidate who had been elected as the Liberal MLA in 1969. That NDP candidate would win the 1977 election and hold the riding right up to the 1988 election, where, again, this riding became the most Liberal riding in Winnipeg, and, in fact, the most Liberal riding in the province. It would remain so until 1995 when Kevin Lamoureux's personal popularity would allow him to win by larger margins in his riding. Federally, the area has also been historically friendly to the Liberal brand.

In short, the win would have been bigger if the riding was not one that is "Liberal Friendly"

Additionally, this is only a win with 42% of the vote, not a win with 50%+1. 3,124 votes would have been needed for that. Beyond this, 3,625 votes, one more than Selinger took in the last election, would have also been a sign of a bigger win, indicating this riding as a lock for Lamont.

Neither of these two larger margins happened. This is why the win could have been bigger. Such a larger margin could have put the Liberals in prime contention to post a serious challenge to government, and while their current showing may bump them to first in the polls, a larger margin as outlined could have kept that bump going to and even through the election.

The Liberals will, thus, have an excellent shot at holding all 4 seats in the next election, and may even pick up another seat or three, which could force a minority pending how well the NDP and Tories do.

So in sum, the win was big. But, it could have been bigger.

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