Manitoba Election Predictions Part III - "Making Money On Rural Ridings"
Where we left off....I had predicted 21 of the 26 non-Winnipeg seats, breaking them down as six for the NDP and fifteen for the Tories. Let's look at the rest:
Take The Smart Money
Dauphin - Roblin - This is a big shame, because the riding should have been ripe for a serious Tory offensive, possibly a steal. However, the party needed to be organized and fighting it hard for at least six to eight months and that hasn't been happening. Natural shifts and anger towards the NDP's bungling of the Ranchers' Choice operation should make it closer, but in the end, Stan Struthers returns to Winnipeg.
Gimli - Peter Bjornson is a nice enough guy, but when he's officially "on" as a politician, no one comes across quite as smug and arrogant, yet completely clueless as well. It's a funny contradiction. Either way, he still seems to be a favorite at home and some of his biggest mis-steps somehow failed to bite him personally despite an obvious foolishness on his part (Seven Oaks School Division housing development for example). If Gimli switches, the Tories aren't only taking government, but a majority government.
Brandon West - Regular readers know my position on Rick Borotsik getting handed the nomination without working for it. Plus his personal popularity took a blow in conservative circles due to Rick's self-righteous stance towards the Alliance and the federal merger. That being said, he is a strong candidate and Scott Smith's strengths appear larger to those in Winnipeg than in Brandon (including to me, because it seems my opinion of the minister is always more favourable than it is to various Brandon-ites I speak with when visiting). The riding will make for some fun watching, but my hunch is that by May Long weekend, even word out of the NDP camps will be that Scott Smith is going down.
Play The Long Shot, Then Impress Your Friends & Make A Little Money On E-Night
Brandon-East - Spent too much time thinking about it to not call this riding this way and still feel right about it in the morning. Anyone looking at the riding with a truly analytic view should call it this way (though I acknowledge it'll be close). The riding has voted for "right wing" candidates in both the fall's civic election and the 2006 winter federal election. Wouldn't consistency suggest that all three levels should be reasonably within the same range if the voting public has a predisposition towards one party?
Mike Waddell is a stronger candidate than anyone else the Tories have put into place in the riding since before I was born. Think about that. Whereas the early-election nomination has been common-place, Waddell announced a year ago, then was building a team and working the riding for months and months. His organization will rival the NDP's in the riding.
In a cabinet full of acknowledged weaker players, Drew Caldwell is the only one that has ever been removed permanently by the Premier. His stint at Education was weak and troublesome (remember he told a riding to cook the enrollment books to increase their funding?), but let's not forget that he was Family Services Minister at a time when many problems began sprouting up, even if they did not bloom until after his "health-related" departure from cabinet, thus sinking fellow NDP MLA Christine Melnyk. So unlike all those many B-E elections where Len Evans was a perennial cabinet minister and overall party player, we're now talking about general backbencher and nothing more.
I really like the comparison of Drew Caldwell vs. Mike Waddell. Mike's going to pick up some support on simple energy alone. He appeals to the solid right in the riding, however he's also able to win over moderate Liberals as well, which is a swinging voting block in the riding.
I'm going to look at this riding from time to time, but in the end, I really feel this is a "long shot" worth calling early. By week three or so, Curtis Brown will start to pick up the trend line, and who knows, by the final weekend, people will be really watching it closer. Which is why now is the time to lay $10 against anyone's offer of $20. See how really confident they are in Drew Caldwell.
(I've got $50 willing to ride on the riding. First folks who offer 2 to 1 to my email gets in on it.)
Interlake - I'll admit knowing less on the ground about this riding than I do Brandon East, however I believe that many of the same intangibles are in play. Weak MLA taking it a little for granted vs. strong Tory candidate with a decent organization and some time in the field. Tory polling numbers in rural Manitoba that are running in the neighbourhood of 50% (including the northern numbers where there is no way the Tories get one-in-two). This is also a riding where the NDP incompetence on the BSE file surely will be remembered considering the crisis began the last time the NDP were looking for their vote.
If I'm going to be wrong on any predictions in the province, this will the riding I'm sure of it, but for now I'll play potential cabinet minister Garry Wasylowski against weak MLA Tom Nevakshonoff.
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So there you have it. My tally of:
Predicted over/under: 3.5
Tories: 18 (+4)
NDP: 8 (-4)
Tomorrow, let's look at the Winnipeg seats.