11.03.2014 04:40 PM

In Tuesday’s Sun: Obama’s bad night, Harper’s bad year

Nate Silver, the Oracle, has spoken.

Silver – the U.S. statistician and political analyst, the Warren Buffett of modern politics – said over the weekend that President Barack Obama’s Democrats are facing a 75 per cent chance of losing control of the Senate Tuesday night. Given that the Republicans already control the House, this is no small thing. Obama, already a lame duck, would be rendered the lamest of lame ducks.

“The polls are clear enough that the GOP will probably win the Senate,” Silver, who exactly predicted the 2012 outcome. “[The mid-terms] look fairly poor for Democrats.”

Much is at stake, so Silver’s prediction is important. Every one of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives is up for grabs Tuesday night – along with a third of the 100 seats in the Senate. Assorted state governorships are on the line, too.

Having been in both Boston and New York City in the past few days, it seems likely that Obama is facing a loss. The mood on the ground certainly suggests a late-race Republican surge.

But why? And, as we poke through the entrails in advance, what does all this mid-term stuff portend (if anything) for Stephen Harper?

We know, we know. Messrs. Harper and Obama could not be more dissimilar. One is a conservative, the other is a progressive. One runs a super power, one does not. One liked George W. Bush, one did not.

But Obama and Harper share some of the same circumstances. For starters, both have wielded power for most or all of the last decade. Both are the undisputed leaders of their respective parties. And both are facing the same challenges (ISIS and Ebola), while simultaneously experiencing the same opportunities (burgeoning economic growth, shrinking unemployment).

In both Canada and the U.S., there are no general strikes. There are no constitutional crises. There are no mass rallies, seeking a premature end to Obama and Harper’s rule.

So why is Obama likely to lose Tuesday night – and is Harper to do likewise, in less than a year?

On any given day, Nate Silver doesn’t have much to say about Stephen Harper. But what he has to say about Barack Obama should give the Canadian Prime Minister pause for thought. There are three principal reasons for this.

One, Silver says, incumbency has become a bit of a curse at the national level. The electorate in the U.S. have not fallen in love with the Republicans, says Silver, so much as they have been seized with what he calls a “very anti-incumbent” mood.

Two, notwithstanding the fact that growth is up and joblessness is down, fear is upon the land. In their advertising, Republicans have relentlessly hammered the fear button – on ISIS, on Ebola – and the media have provided an uncritical echo chamber. Silver tweeted that, “in NYC, I’ve seen zero people wearing surgical masks or otherwise acting paranoid about Ebola. It’s only the media that’s been irrational.” But the fear campaign has paid dividends. When no one else is offering hope, fear works.

Finally, all politicians claim to oppose the status quo, because they know that voters dislike it. With the exception of Obamacare, Obama hasn’t exactly been a rousing agent of change. If anything, he has favoured a caretaker type of presidency, where even the most modest of achievements are celebrated. As such, Silver dryly notes, “President Obama remains unpopular.”

Anti-incumbency. Anxiety about an unpopular war, and an uncertain future. A desire for change, and a rejection of the status quo. All of these things have combined, on this day, to almost guarantee a bad night for the U.S. President.

All of those things should concern Stephen Harper, too.

Ask Nate Silver, Mr. Prime Minister. He’ll tell you.

29 Comments


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    Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    Yes, change is the order of the day — but not just change for change’s sake. When Mitch McConnell won his primary with 60 percent of the vote, that spoke volumes.

    In short, tea partyers will find it challenging. Main-stream Establishment Republicans, not so much. Senate: I’ll go with 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and Bernie Sanders.


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    Lance says:

    In hindsight, anti-incumbency didn’t seem to be a concern for the long governing Ontario Liberals. I’m not sure it’s even likewise an overriding concern for Harper either.


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      Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Lance,

      Big difference. Wynne and company got re-elected as progressive Liberals. Harper could have challenged for middle-of-the-road voters in Harper I and Harper II. But he blew his chance with the majority when he turned far right. He finally let Harper be Harper — and that will cost him government when the election rolls around.


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    davie says:

    I was visiting relatives and assorted other Winnipegers last Spring, Conservative voters, most of them. I was a bit surprised at their disgust for the PM. I think the point on anti incumbent is probable. Lots of room for Libs to appeal to those people.

    ISIS and ebola! Often I have a hard time figuring out how much concern about climate people have. The IPCC report this past weekend could not help incumbents in the Excited States. Here in the conscience of the continent, French Pres Holland mentioned climate challenges in his address to parliament this morn, and Elizabeth May asked a straightforward question about the IPCC report and its ramifications, but received a brush off answer. I wonder, though, if we milling masses are not thinking more and more about IPCC reports as much as about other issues, and trying to figure out how to do something through our voting choices.


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      Robin says:

      If you are concerned about the IPCC reports, let me suggest one approach to making your voting choices do something:
      Vote Liberal if the Liberal candidate in your federal constituency has a realistic chance of winning or is the incumbent;
      Vote NDP if the NDP candidate in your federal constituency has a realistic chance of winning or is the incumbent;
      Vote Green if you want to increase the chances of the Conservative candidate being elected in your federal constituency.
      Don’t vote if you want the Conservative candidate to win (NOTE: Conservatives vote because Harper benefits their pocket book)
      Simple. Easy.
      It’ s not ideal but idealists who vote Green help Harper form a government.
      Unfortunate but true. It’s your decision.


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        davie says:

        Usually I work for NDP candidates.
        But sometimes I think that a vote for any of the three main parties is going to be a vote for status quo as far as taking preventive measures about climate change.

        Conservs say they will put economy(profits they mean) first.
        Libs say they will do something, but in power, will feed the corporate beast.
        NDP is not likely to form government in Canada; first past the post won’t allow it…and especially not if foreign presences have anything to say about it.

        The anti terrorist legislation will look after any scattered, and peaceful resistance

        I just do not see the will, anywhere in Canada.


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          Robin says:

          Davie, give the Justin Liberals a chance. Don’t lose hope. It will be hard work but it’s our best hope.


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            davie says:

            You’re right…it will be interesting for people like me…figuring out whether to pitch in for a party which better represents what my leanings are…or pitching in for a party that is best chance of knocking this grubby Stalinist clutch out of power.


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    Joe says:

    While incumbency can be a turn off for voters the voter needs an alternative. Witness the problems Albertans faced when they wanted to get rid of the PCs. Because the NDP, Liberals, Alberta Party and the Wild Rose party were all completely unpalatable the PCs swept all four byelections.


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    David says:

    There’s no way Stephen Harper is running next year. It’ll be Prime Minister Kenney you’ll have to compare to George Bush. History has proven that John Turner and Brian Mulroney were the same guy.


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      Ronald O'Dowd says:

      David,

      Then that guy must have been two-faced: Turner in the fight of his life against the FTA and Mulroney in favour though initially against.


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        David says:

        It’s common knowledge that Turner was in favour of Free Trade but came out against it because that’s what leaders of the opposition are supposed to do. Either way your job was going to Kentucky before finally ending up in Mexico.


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    Niall says:

    Dear WK,

    Apple, meet Orange.
    Probably your worst “analysis” yet, w.r.t. Canada anyway.

    YT

    Niall from Winnipeg


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      Kaspar Juul says:

      Wow this has to be the pithiest comment ever


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      Lance says:

      At least he is willing to take a risk and let it hang out there. Where is your “analysis”, tough guy?


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    MississaugaPeter says:

    Everything will be decided during the French and English debates.

    Layton won the the French, thus the Quebec sweep.

    Harper will hope for a knockout punch or a Trudeau blunder. If neither occur, Trudeau is prime minister.

    Everything until then is preparation for the debates. Harper the Statesman versus Trudeau the Everyman.


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      Lance says:

      LOL Hardly. He’ll at least have to come up with something substantial other than exceeding low-ball expectations or “kicking da bums out”. People are still waiting. Meanwhile, Harper comes out with tax policy for good or ill. And Trudeau?


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    Philippe says:

    I follow US Politics fairly closely, an the reason Obama hasn’t been an “agent of change” is the Republic strategy, from the very beginning when they took the house, have determined to blocking everything would make president Obama look weak. It worked. They blocked absolutely everything, including the most reasonable type of proposal even Reagan was in favour of. From immigration reform to tax-reform to moderate budgets (grand bargains), the Obama administration was primed for action. They NEVER had a partner. What’s sad is that the average American doesn’t have enough time to delve into the details.. they simply think “he got nothing done”. Even Bill Clinton admits he had it easier (and they impeached him). The world’s greatest conciliator could not have gotten anything done with the Republican house, it was (is) simply impossible. They couldn’t even accept immigration-reform legislation that was forged by a bi-partisan Senate (with most Republicans on board).

    It takes a sick individual to put power ahead of country & the good of the people. And politicians wonder why most people consider them vermin.

    With the house Republicans themselves divided between far-far right tea party kooks, and far right Bush era war-mongers, the only legislation you will see over the next 2 years will be radical by any normal person’s standards. Get ready for A LOT of presidential VETOS. I suspect a cycle of: they send radical bills to the President’s desk, he vetos them with public opinion behind him, Hillary gets in in 2 years. That’s my best guess at how this gong-show unfolds.


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    Michael says:

    A question for all of those predicting a Trudeau win in the next election. Where does JT find the seats?

    I know that the polls have shown the Liberals ahead for quite some time now. But as Premiers Hudak, Dix, and Marois will tell you, polls mean squat. In my mind, the Liberal support is a mile wide and an inch deep.

    But back to the question of seats. How do you go from 37 to 170 that you will need for a majority?

    Yes the Liberals will pick up seats in Atlantic Canada. But there just aren’t that many out there. If you are going to believe the polls showing the Liberals with a healthy lead, you also have to believe the polls that have shown NDP support remaining solid in Quebec. The Liberals will pick up some seats in Quebec, but not the overwhelming sweep their supporters wish for and they need to win. Out west, the poll numbers are encouraging, but not enough to make significant, if any seat gains. There will be seat gains in BC, but there just aren’t enough seats in BC to base a win on.

    Which brings us to Ontario. For the Liberals to win they need to sweep Ontario, a la Jean Chretien. Though Liberal numbers look good in Ontario, it is a province divided. The Liberal support is concentrated in urban areas. Rural Ontario is still very much conservative territory. If JT matches the seat count that Wynne received in the last provincial election federal Liberals will be happy (and probably consider themselves lucky).

    So what does all of this mean? Harper minority in 2015.


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      doconnor says:

      There are lots of suburban and urban seats in Ontario. Fewer rural ones. That would probably be enough for a Liberal minority.


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      Lance says:

      And what about the new ridings that are coming into play? How will they factor, I wonder?


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    Al in Cranbrook says:

    One significant difference: Obama is a useless idiot, and Harper is anything but.

    It’s so bad that Democrats pretty much told Obama to stay home, please don’t come anywhere near my campaign bus!

    That ain’t happening in Canada.

    Also worth mentioning, a bunch of new ridings in BC, Alberta and suburban Ontario.

    BC is always all over the political map in midterm polling, but always gets it together on election day. Been that way ever since Manning and the Reform kicked the hell out of the NDP protest vote here in 1993.

    ( I found the reference to Trudeau as the “everyman” amusing. As if the vast majority of Canadians grew up from day one like him with a golden spoon in their mouth. Good luck with that one! )


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      Kaspar Juul says:

      Sometimes these comments from Al remind me of a kid having a meltdown in a mall.

      Emotional, irrational and without purpose.


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      doconnor says:

      If people believed Rob Ford was an “everyman”, despite being exceptional by every metric imaginable, then they can believe Trudeau is.


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      MississaugaPeter says:

      Al, you are 100% correct that Trudeau is not an Everyman, as much as I don’t believe one iota that Harper is much of a Statesman, but that is what each Party is hoping to portray their candidate as going into the next election.

      Harper is a pathetic leader but is using crises to create a perception that to stand up to the evil folks around the world, we need an experienced pro to represent us. Expect a major row with Russia over the north (and north pole) next year. SO FAR, Harper and his handlers have been successful in creating the perception that he is the best choice of the three if World Affairs is important at the time to the voter.

      Trudeau has had a silver spoon all his life. Not his fault, but that is the case no matter how much one wants to state that he worked on the ski slopes and private/public schools at one time or another. His focus on the middle class and attempt to empathize with them may be real or not, but is an attempt to make the voters think that he is one of their own, when he is not. SO FAR, Trudeau and his handlers have been successful in creating the perception that he is the best choice of the three if “I am like you, and I understand you” is important at the time to the voter.


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    sezme says:

    I agree that voters in both countries are disgusted with the status quo, though for quite different reasons. I fully expect the CPC to be turfed come federal election time.

    Looking at the results there (and really the last 14 years of political reality there), once again, I’m glad I don’t have to live in the States.

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