Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 10, 2007
Of all the seats in all the regions in all the States in the country, why is Howard spending his time and your money in Tasmania, where there’s only 2 Coalition held marginals to defend?
A few reasons come to mind – the most obvious one being that with Tasmania, the government can try and buy a whole State for the price it would take to buy just a single Sydney marginal, especially with the high expectations of government pork in those more demanding urban climes. The metro mainland marginals demand nothing less than the whole pig, but Tassie seems to be content with just the accompaniments – the apple in the mouth of the beast for the appropriately named Apple Isle.
But there would be a lot more to it than that – we probably need to get in touch with our inner Crosby Textor to make real sense of it.
The government hasn’t had any real movement in the polls to them, pretty much anywhere, since June/July where they (superficially at least) possibly gained a point or two in the TPP stakes.
Personally I put this down to the polling overshoot washing out of the system, where the bandwagon effect behind Rudd finally peaked, and where that 5-7% of fickle newsvoters and members of the voting herd made a correction back to behaving in their usual, electorally schizophrenic way – similar to the way newstraders behave with a bull run on a stock price….. but I digress.
So with the ALP TPP vote in the Tassie marginals apparently dropping recently from low 60s to merely high 50’s, that whiff of movement to the Coalition, however tenuous, is jumped on. When you are suffering the wrong side of a polling famine, the smallest morsel becomes a feast.
If we use the OzTrack 33 research to see what Rudd did to Tasmania and to see how things were looking for the Coalition in June down there, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Rudd came along and did this to Tassie on the issue positioning front (it’s a thumbnail):
Contributing to compositional voter movement away from the Coalition of this:
That big shift in the 50-64 age group is a killer. That’s usually one of the strongest Coalition age demographics, but with Braddon having 26% of its eligible voters being in that group and Bass having 23.9% of its eligible voters being in that age group (2006 census), the Coalition would lose those two marginal seats on that age group swing alone.
So with this hint of recent polling movement in Tassie, Howard pounces to see if it can be given some momentum by throwing pork around the place. This tells us a few things:
Firstly, that the Coalition is as desperate as the polls suggest they should be. Normally when the vote moves from reflecting a complete savaging to just a mild annihilation, life goes on without much fanfare – gaps that large are usually written off and resources allocated elsewhere. The problem is, “elsewhere” is just as bad. The fact that mild annihilation is looked upon as a great opportunity to maybe reduce it further to just a veritable wipe out speaks volumes about the tenuous electoral position the Coalition find themselves in.
Secondly, it provides hope with the potential for further uses. If Tassie can be moved back to something resembling 54/46 in Labors favour (however short term that may be from the porkbarrelling), that result can then be used to boost the morale of the party, its members and its donors on the mainland.
With the only good news story for the Coalition at the moment being that if the election reflects the polls, a large proportion of the survivors will get a shadow cabinet position doesn’t exactly make for a generally happy, enthusiastic mood. But with ‘evidence’ that an 8-10 point turnaround can be done because “we did it in Tassie” , in these days of dismal polling, that’s literally manna from heaven in the morale stakes. We can already see this playing out with the Tasmanian polling being spun to journos as something more than it really is.
Thirdly, if the Coalition can actually hold onto their Tassie marginals, that forces the ALP to rely on getting seats further up the pendulum. With 8+% swings being the norm at the moment, the power of that becomes pretty irrelevant, but if…. but IF the government can narrow the polls during the campaign AND hold the Tassie marginals, then maybe, just maybe it will be important. Managing defeat is about maximising the possibilities.
Finally, and arguably most importantly, the governments recent actions in Tasmania tell us that the old strategy has been dumped. We can see the basic, generic strategy that was recommended in June:
But suddenly, health is being aggressively pursued in Tasmania as an issue, even though it risks raising the prominence of health to such a point where it becomes an influential vote driver for a greater number of people. That would, in turn, force those people to make a direct comparison between the Coalition and the ALP over health and that is a high risk to take when the ALP brand is so well positioned, both currently and historically on the issue. The Mersey Hospital policy being a bit of a farce doesn’t exactly help the Coalition here either.
But while there is a large downside risk here for the Coalition, there is also the possibility that this intense Tasmanian activity will raise the PMs personal standing, which CT believes is a fundamentally important driver of the vote. Key vote influencers like Preferred PM, National Interest, Important Issues and Strong Leadership are all affected by the PMs personal standing. If you can buy a better personal standing, you make a down payment on a whole swag of other vote drivers as a result.
And I think that what is happening in Tasmania as the new strategy is being reflected elsewhere. The last ditch effort to go for broke, attack the strong ALP issues even though it’s been counterproductive before, and to raise the PMs personal standing are all starting to play out more and more in the mainland campaign. Desperate stuff – but when the alternative is worse, it’s really all they’ve got.
On something completely unrelated, David H sent me this appalling picture he snapped in Sydney:
Just what’s the world coming to I ask you?
….. and put that Yellow Pages down Christopher Pearson.
And for something different, I might throw the odd song in as a little doovywhatsit at the bottom of posts for the disturbingly large number of people that seem to listen to my Music to Blog By. Todays number is Crushcrushcrush by the excellent Paramore from their new album Riot (which is probably the best album of this genre I’ve heard for about 5 years). If you like it, dont be a tight arse and go and buy the CD 😉