Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Home-field disadvantages

A couple of bloggers have already pointed out that the Libs appear to be in danger of falling behind the Greens in British Columbia. But as dangerous as it is for the Libs to be running for fourth place anywhere, the drop may signal even more weakness than it would appear to at first glance.

Remember that much of Dion's organizational structure came from British Columbia, with strong links to both the Martin camp and the Campbell government. Mark Marissen was Dion's campaign manager for the leadership race and at last notice was serving as a national campaign co-chair, while several others with similar ties also played prominent roles. Which would seem to make B.C. one of the provinces where the Libs are likely to be relatively well-organized.

Moreover, while there would normally be some ideological difference between the B.C. Libs and their federal counterparts, those lines have been largely blurred now that both are taking fire over their respective carbon tax plans. Simply put, the Campbell government would seem to have reason to want to make sure that Dion doesn't go down in flames, if only to avoid creating a narrative which will increase their likelihood of doing the same in 2009.

Yet even in a province which plays home to Dion's organizational base - and where the provincial government and its supporters have every reason to want to back the Libs' main policy plank - the Libs are apparently bleeding support from all sides, possibly to the point of facing an uphill battle for third.

Of course, there's at least some symmetry there with the fact that Dion is likewise fighting to stay out of fourth place in his own province. But when neither Dion personally nor his top organizers can apparently win over even their home provinces, what can the Libs possibly have left?

For now, then answer is force of habit, particularly in Ontario. But if the New Democrats can take advantage of an obvious opportunity to gain ground there, then we may soon reach the tipping point where the NDP becomes the default alternative to Harper. And if that comes to pass, then the Libs' drop so far may look positively insignificant by the time the campaign is over.

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