"Oh, Look!" says God. "A Challenge!"

Before I go onto the main topic of this post, I want to mention that I encountered the most odd technical glitch on this blog which basically shot this afternoon. It started when I realized that my Internet wouldn’t connect to my website. Indeed, any website hosted by Hostgator was offline to me.

At first I thought it was a problem with my Internet connection, but then I discovered that Google was still working, and LiveJournal and many blogger sites. So I called Hostgator to ask them why they were offline and how long the outage would be. Their response: we’re not offline. Indeed, I’ve just called up your website on my browser, he says. You look fine. Maybe the problem is with my ISP. Perhaps they’re blocking websites. If that’s the case, I say, then this means that Rogers is blocking all of your websites. You may have a problem.

So I call Rogers, whose technical support is not nearly as good as Hostgator (time on hold to Hostgator: 2 minutes. Time on hold to Rogers, 40 minutes. The kids were getting mighty impatient). Finally, I get a human being. Why are you blocking my websites, I demand. No, we’re not, he says. See, I’ve just loaded up your website on my browser. You look fine.

I still can’t access any website hosted by Hostgator.com. Also, any site hosted by Dreamhost.org appears to be off limits to me as well. I try bypassing my Airport and hooking my laptop directly to the cable modem via Ethernet cable. No go. All my browsers are affected, as is e-mail hosted by Hostgator. In the end, I’m unsuccessful, and I have to gather up the kids and take them out to dinner with Mom. Returning to the computer three hours later, I find that the problem has miraculously fixed itself. So I sit down and type this in.

Any ideas what happened here? The problem isn’t necessarily with Rogers as a whole, and it doesn’t appear to be related to the host. Bypassing the Airport tells me that the problem isn’t there either. That leaves my cable modem or… what?

Anyway, I’m none too pleased to have had an entire afternoon consumed by this, and no resolution. But at least I’m online now.

Usually I quite enjoy reading the posts of partisan Liberal blogger Danielle Takacs, however I fear that she goes just a bit over the top when she writes this:

So with Layton saying today that he believes he’s the best option to “STOP HARPER” I thought it about time for a real reality check here since the press at large seems content to give Layton on free pass on all things (as at least one columnist has noted). I challenge any NDP supporter to provide a list of at least 100 ridings the NDP thinks it could win.

The phrase that comes to mind, here, is ‘methinks thou doest protest too much’. It strikes me that one doesn’t make challenges like this if one isn’t at least a little bit worried that the previously unthinkable (the New Democrats form the official opposition) has become the possible (recent Liberal upticks notwithstanding).

I’m not a partisan NDP supporter, but I can certainly see areas where the NDP can pick up seats. Remember, they currently have 30, which is as good as their election performances in the 1970s and early 1980s. They’re also missing a number of seats in areas where, traditionally, they have been strong. The New Democrats have no seats in Saskatchewan, even though they rose to prominence in Saskatchewan, and the unpopular New Democratic government isn’t around to be kicked around anymore. They’ve won in Cambridge before, and in Scarborough Southwest. All it would take is a little strategic voting on the part of Liberals to send a New Democratic representative to Ottawa from Oshawa, defeating the Conservative incumbent. If enough Liberals in Central Nova dislike the deal that Stephane Dion worked out with Elizabeth May, they can still vote to defeat Peter MacKay by voting NDP instead, as they came second in that riding during the 2006 election.

I can’t come up with 100 seats off the top of my head, but Hill and Knowlton can. While the science of this seat projector is so shaky that it can’t be called a science, it does highlight 103 ridings where the NDP have stronger than average bases of support, which if a swing of voters occurs with mathematical precision, could result in 103 NDP victories.

The split that I used to achieve this result was as follows: Conservatives, 33%; Liberals, 19%, New Democrats: 33%, Greens: 8%, Bloc Quebecois: 6% and Other: 1% (The results shake down to Conservative 125, NDP 103, Liberals 41, BQ 38, IND 1). What would have to happen is a significant drop in Liberal support — almost half of the current support base. Liberal support would have to be bolstered by a movement of Conservative supporters, alarmed by the rise of NDP fortunes (not an unlikely scenario). The Bloc Quebecois support would also have to drop, with a lot of those voters heading to the New Democrats (not impossible).

Yes, such a swing seems unlikely, but is it impossible? History suggests otherwise. After all, how could it have been possible for the New Democrats of Ontario to rise to 37.5% of popular support in the span of an election campaign called when the governing Liberals were well ahead? How could it have been possible for Mike Harris to turn a 51% Liberal lead in Ontario into a majority government in 1995? Heck, nobody thought that a governing party could be reduced to just two seats in the span of an election campaign. Nobody, they said, would break off their support for the Progressive Conservatives to back one of two regional parties with no hope of forming the government.

But they did.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying to yourself, “but James, that’s nuts. They have no campaign on the ground, they have nothing to convince those hundreds of thousands of voters in those ridings to change their support.” But here’s the thing: when voter intentions shift to such a degree, as they have in the past, the local campaign is irrelevant. When the New Democrats rose to power in 1990, my father heard voters shouting to one another at the ballot box, “which one is the NDP candidate?” These weren’t traditional NDP voters. It’s fair to say that they weren’t swayed by brilliant NDP campaigning; they had simply made the decision in their own mind to change, and the result was the spectacular fall of David Petersen.

Today, we have rising support for the Conservative party, in spite of a gaffe-filled campaign. The reality would seem to be that, in spite of the Conservatives having released no party platform, enough voters are deciding that the Conservatives are the winners.

So I would warn Danielle away from this sort of cocky challenge, because the electorate is an unpredictable beast. As good as our polls are, we don’t have cameras inside everybody’s head, and sometimes the desire to vote for change is expressed passionately, in ways which shock the pundits.

Much as you might think that certain outcomes are impossible, they’re not. Best to let the sleeping beast lie, and not prod it with arrogant assumptions of how predictable voters really are.

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