Posts Tagged ‘election predictions’

The breathless reporting of Labour advancing on the bastions of Torydom continues apace, including here in the national media in Australia.

But since two days ago, we have been focusing our attention on two issues – firstly, the seat by seat betting odds for the various parties, and secondly, intelligence leaking out from impeccable Labour sources.

Both would seem to suggest that any “surge” in the Labour vote may have been over-estimated by an over-eager or badly-informed media.

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 12.18.55 pmWhat the punters say

The betting odds which reflect real money (laid by people in the know, usually) are certainly not predicting wholesale Labour gains.

Everywhere but London, Labour support looks soft, measured by this perennially reliable predictor. The odds aren’t always right, it has to be said, but they are consistently more right than anything else, including opinion polls, and especially when looking at individual seats. Parties often try and ameliorate the cost of their local campaigning through smart betting moves.

So if Labour activists the length and breadth of the country who can actually see the doorstep canvassing results are not plunging on with their own hard earned, then that says something.

What Labour insiders say

But Labour intelligence is even more interesting. Along with private messages we have received, the Labour Uncut website (which has excellent contacts and who have previously given real insights) point to certain factors that we should respect.

Calling potential results outside London as potentially “a nuclear winter”, the blog calls for extreme caution as regards the recent optimism over Labour, quoting the following points:

Labour members and supporters have been knocking doors in core Labour wards, in seats that are under threat. In the last week they’ve been focused specifically on Labour voters. If there was a shift [in favour of Labour], this could happening out of sight of the canvassers. For example, Labour might be piling up support in safe Labour seats where there is little activity.

This is a well-known phenomenon, which bedevils polling organisations the world over. Unless they are polling ONLY marginal seats, they may detect a hardening of support for a party in seats where that surge in support doesn’t actually matter. Look, for example, at the huge leads for Hillary Clinton on the east and west coasts of America. She still lost in key battleground states.

People are generally pretty savvy about who is going to win their seat. “It’s always been [so and so] around here.” And people like voting for the likely winners. So in safe Labour seats they are more inclined to vote Labour, in safe Tory seats, the same. This well-understood effect doesn’t mean that a rise in support in seats like this is reflected elsewhere.

The other phenomenon that has been noted in this election, which we mentioned the other day, is the rise in activity in younger voters. Labour Uncut hazards the following:

One explanation might be a rise in support among those in a household that don’t normally take part in the doorstep conversation but do answer online polls, such as young voters. The polls themselves indicate that Labour’s rise is being driven by enthusiasm among young electors with a striking proportion saying they are committed to voting. But since the rise in the polls, Uncut has heard various stories about Labour candidates and campaigners scouring their electoral rolls to identify households with voters under 25 – whether they live in Labour wards or not, whether they or their families have a history of backing Labour or not. The feedback has been that in the overwhelming majority of cases, this pool of voters is neither sizeable enough to make a difference nor are the canvass returns from these targeted efforts tallying with the level of rise that the polls are suggesting.

This may indeed be the case. A switch to online polling has changed how polls should be read.

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 12.25.42 pmThere is a prevalent view that online polls aren’t as accurate as phone polls, and phone polls aren’t as accurate as face-to-face discussions. And it is on this latter point that Labour Uncut is most damning.

They encourage us to first note (looking at the last election) the difference between ‘party preference’ and ‘desired government outcome’. Voters might have identified with Labour but they didn’t want an Ed Miliband-led coalition so voted accordingly.

Second, they suggest that some voters “gamed the polls”. They used them to signal a protest before reverting to a different choice in the polling booth. It’s worth taking in, what Tory pollster Mark Textor said,

“We were polling massive numbers of voters every night and assessing how they looked at their choices, so we knew that in normal public-style polls they were saying they preferred Labour … but at the end of the day the actual outcome they wanted was a David Cameron-led Conservative government, and the only way to do that was to vote Conservative in their local seat,”

“We measured their preferred style of government … they might say: ‘Normally I prefer Labour’, but we asked: ‘Which scenario do you want as an outcome?’…so we knew there were a lot of voters who on traditional voting patterns were Labour voters but had made the tactical decision that the best choice was to vote for David Cameron … we were measuring outcomes and not just voting preference.”

“They were using polling like a protest vote – they might think: ‘I don’t really want Miliband, but I’ll say I prefer him to tickle up the Conservatives’ – or whomever – but we knew at the end of the day when we measured their preferred model in government what they really wanted was the outcome of a stable Cameron-led government.”

Labour campaigners fear something similar is happening right now.

In every seat, canvassers are encountering lifelong Labour supporters who still identify with the party but not with Jeremy Corbyn.  (The point we made much of the other day.)

This group tends to have voted forScreen Shot 2017-06-07 at 12.28.56 pm Ed Miliband reluctantly or abstained and are now either sitting out this contest as well or are ready to vote Tory for the first time to prevent a Corbyn premiership.

These switchers represent a new generation of so-called “shy Tories”, located deep inside Labour’s core vote.

The theory is that they are embarrassed at voting Tory, sufficiently so to deny their intent to friends, families and pollsters. Some of the older Labour officials and campaigners have reported familiar doorstep cadences from 1992 – “It’s in the eyes,” one said.

One last point is worth noting in judging what is happening on the ground. Lib Dem campaigners note they are in very tough fights to hold three or four of their seats, although hopeful of picking up a few more.  So no shock increase in Lib Dem seats coming up to skew the likelihood of a majority for May. And Labour campaigners and supporters are privately conceding seats that in a good year they would hold. But perhaps most of all, as Labour Uncut point out:

The Tories do not look like a party that thinks Labour is threatening a range of their seats in England, which is what the polls suggest.

Based on what Mark Textor said after the 2015 election, we know something of what they are doing. Large scale nightly polling, targeted at specific seats, with questioning framed as per the quote above. At this stage in the campaign, postal votes – which have been sampled over the past 5 days, giving them an idea of actual vote performance – will also be factored into the mix.

This is then used to shape their social media targeting on Facebook, local newspaper ad buys and visit schedule for the cabinet and leader.

Last Friday, Theresa May visited Sheffield. Specifically she was in Don Valley, Caroline Flint’s constituency, a seat where Labour led the Tories by 21% in 2015. On Saturday, she was in Penistone and Stockbridge, Angela Smith’s seat, where she won by 14% over the Tories in 2015. Tonight, May was in Bradford South, a seat where Judith Cummins beat her Tory opponent by 17% in 2015.

The fear of Labour officials and candidates, particularly in the West Midlands, North East, North West and Yorkshire, is that if the Tories are on course to flip seats like Don Valley, then many more could be vulnerable. One official in Yorkshire told Uncut that a string of Morley and Outwoods – the seat Ed Balls lost in 2015 – was on the cards for 2017.

Labour Uncut concedes they might be wrong, as you can see below, but we don’t think they are. To our eyes, the sheer un-electability of Corbyn has always been the key factor.

The polls might be right. There could be a surge of young voters that rewrite general election rules. This could be the first contest in living memory where a party increases its rating by so much during the short campaign. Labour could be about to poll near its 1997 level at the general election.

Or not.

We have consulted one election guru whose advice we consider near infallible. Not least because he personally steered some of the most famous by election victories in electoral history, and his political “nose” is about as attuned as anyone we have ever met, and he makes it his business to campaign in a variety of seats during an election.

He confidently reckons the Tories by 40-70 seats. So we are content to revise our prediction for a Tory victory upwards from the 30-40 where we had it. We’ll go with 50-70, especially as any pick ups for Labour in Scotland look increasingly unlikely. Maybe one or two. Maybe none. Not enough, anyway.

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 12.09.41 pm

Apparently men with beards are seen as more aggressive – not a feature people like in politicians. Yet they like “strong” leaders. Go figure.

 

Still not a thumping endorsement for Theresa May, at all, but it finally would be a profound rejection by the voters of Jeremy Corbyn, personally. And we have no doubt he would retire from the leadership immediately in the event of such a result. Who would replace him is more problematical. The party is split top to toe between its parliamentarians and its members. There will be tears before bedtime.

One thing that is not really on anyone’s radar is whether May herself is under threat in, say, the 12 months following this election.

Her election performance has been underwhelming in the extreme. She’d have to do a damn good job of Brexit to avoid being tapped on the shoulder by the grey ghosts of the Tory Party.

Oh, one last thing. Buy some sterling. A Tory win will see a significant jump upwards in its value.

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Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 2.19.00 pm

This blog has a long and honourable history of predicting election outcomes, and usually getting them right.

We have, however, recently made a right pig’s arse of the process.

We got the Australian election almost spot on, in predicting a narrow Conservative majority. We got the shellacking handed out to the Liberal Democrats in the 2015 election spot on – we may have been the only predictor expecting them to hold under 10 of their seats. But in both those cases it might be argued that it was our personal closeness to the outcomes that led to their accuracy.

In other instances recently – David Cameron winning an unexpected majority in 2015, the Brexit vote narrowly backing Leave, and most infamously Donald Trump winning the electoral college (not, note, the popular vote) we were plain wrong, much to the inordinate glee of some of our correspondents who accused us of everything from not understanding opinion polling (unlikely considering our profession), to not seeing a fundamental shift to the populist nationalist right worldwide (which was always a nonsense), or of under-estimating electorate’s sense of angst and desire to give anyone – everyone – a kicking, (which was perfectly correct, and we did indeed under-estimate it).

Bang on time for this week’s UK election, this super article by Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com explains in great detail and copious references just why it has become so difficult to predict elections today, and the efforts gone to by polling organisations to correct any likely mistakes – which may even cause further mistakes.

If you have any interest in politics or political forecasting at all, we cannot recommend highly enough that you click the link and read it.

Anyhow, the old line out forth by politicians anytime a poll is unfavourable to them – “There’s only one poll that counts. The one on election day.” – is proving to be more and more true.

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 2.23.45 pm

So will we make a prediction, or is our headline just a pathetic attempt at click bait?

Nope. We’ll give it a go, but with the loudly proclaimed proviso that we could be wrong by more than the apparent margin of error either way, as Silver so kindly points out.

The average poll lead for the Tories over the Labour Party currently sits at around 7%. In our view, this is likely to be a winning margin for the following reasons:

Labour haven’t fixed their Scottish problem. Although they will do better than their wipeout north of the border last time, we need to remember that Scotland used to be rock-solid Labour territory. They could count on hatfuls of seats from the big industrial conurbations. They are doing slightly better now, so they will win some seats back, but in our view, not enough. And essentially, with a thoroughly “SNP-ised” Scotland, Labour need to do historically better in England and Wales than at any time in their history in order to overhaul the Conservatives. And that’s not going to happen.

The Liberal Democrats have stayed stubbornly limited to around 8% in the polls, sometimes up to 10-11%, sometimes down to 6%. Essentially, they are not seen as serious contenders in this election, and there is a still a strong “on the nose” element hanging over from their disastrous conduct of the Coalition agreement. The Lib Dem result is notoriously hard to predict because what they do bring to the table, undoubtedly, is superb on the ground campaigning – the so-called “street game”. Which is why we think they will pick up some seats, but they are also in danger of losing a couple of obvious wins where boundary changes or demographic changes are running against them, so their net effect via-a-vis the Tories (their main target) is likely to be negligible. Certainly not dramatic enough to rob May of her majority.

The Corbyn factor is especially interesting. Rarely has a leader of a major political party been more demonised by the media and commentators. But along with this demonisation has come a stubborn determination by some Britons – especially the young and first time voters, who have registered in historically large numbers – to back him, to give the establishment a kicking if nothing else. He has also appeared more impressive while the campaign has worn on, in stark contrast to Theresa May, who has frequently looked like a rabbit caught in headlights.

So we see the growth in the polls for Labour as real, but we simply can’t bring ourselves to believe that a character as polarising as Corbyn can beat an incumbent government. It’s just too counter-cultural – the continuing drumbeat about his past views on the IRA, his beard – how successful many bearded politicians do you know? There’s a reason for that. – the fact he looks uncomfortable in a suit, the way he is repeatedly castigated as returning Labour to the bad old days of the seventies, let alone his recent wholesale rejection by his own MPs, etc. etc.  It’s just too much of a tsunami of criticism to push back against.

Our last reason for plumping for the Tories is the three recent terror attacks, and especially the last two, in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert, and over the weekend on London Bridge. In times of deep anxiety, people tend to plump for “the devil they know”, and in this case that is definitely the incumbent government. It shouldn’t be so: in a perfect world, people should make a careful and cautious examination of all the reasons for voting for one or other of the options on offer, and not be swayed by the actions of a few vicious lunatics, but the fact is people simply don’t behave like that. Enough people will say, we believe, that this is no time remove backing from the Government, and that factor alone will be enough to see them over the line. Also, the Prime Minister and Government of the day receive a great deal of “free” – and mostly positive – airtime, simply by saying the sort of thing that is expected of political leaders at such times.

As became clear after Manchester, however, the advantage does not necessarily flow all one way. A spate of attacks, so close to an election, cannot but challenge the Government’s line in some people’s minds that it has successfully defended the country against terrorism. After Manchester, too, the Labour leader offered a rather different view of root causes. While Corbyn denied blaming the Government for the Manchester attack in any way – and indeed did not do so – he did ask about the possible impact on domestic security of the UK’s involvement in foreign wars. Nor – surprisingly perhaps, given the context – did he attract much public opprobrium for doing so.

So the advantage to the Conservatives of a national security election – as opposed to a Brexit or migration or austerity election – may not be as decisive as initially thought. But it will not be the same election as it would have been, even if going ahead with the vote as normal shows the necessary determination not to be cowed.

So in the final wash up, our guess is a Tory majority of 30-40 seats. Way down on initial suggestions that May might win a majority of 100 or even 150 seats, and one unintended consequence of such a result would be that May’s own leadership credentials would be severely wounded. How seriously, only time would tell. But there are certainly those around her cabinet table with a lean and hungry look, even if that soubriquet could never reasonably be applied to Boris Johnson.

But our certainty, also, is that we could be completely – even wildly – wrong. Things used to be quite easy in the world of psephology. Not so much nowadays.

For once, we will not be making a substantial bet on the outcome. That should tell you something, Dear Reader.

TurnbullOne feature of the Liberal National Coalition’s nail-bitingly close win in the Australian election that deserves comment – especially as the knives are at the very least being sharpened for Mr Turnbull’s back by the right wing in his party, even if they are currently going back in the sheaths for a while – is that the Coalition didn’t just get a bare majority of seats, (or at least that’s how it looks currently, and Labor have now officially conceded defeat) but it also looks increasingly likely that they also won the popular vote.

That fact gives their election (and mandate) added credibility, unlike when then ALP leader Kim Beazley famously won the popular vote (in October 1988) but still lost.

With about 80 per cent of lower house ballots counted the Coalition has received 50.13 per cent of the vote on a two-party preferred basis to Labor’s 49.87 per cent.

What that obscures, of course, is two very important issues: firstly, that the ALP’s primary vote remains rooted in the mid-thirty percents (currently about 35%) putting them a long way behind the popularity of the Coalition, and far from being able to claim to be a natural party of government in any meaningful sense. And secondly that although the Coalition vote fell by about 3.4% (about .4% more than we thought it would) a substantial percentage of that fall went to third parties, and not the ALP.

Apart from a slight uptick for the Liberal’s National Party partners, we also saw increases for the Nick Xenophon Team, various “Christian” parties, and a rat-bag collection of right wing independents, notably the One Nation “party” of Pauline Hanson and the likes of “The Human Headline”, Derryn Hinch, in Victoria, and Jackie Lambie in the Tasmanian Senate, not to mention the libertarian Liberal Democrats in NSW.

Far from being a ringing endorsement of Labor’s strategies and policies, not to mention leadership, the election result actually suggests that the ALP has a great deal of work still to do. For one thing, the Greens will continue snapping away at their heels in inner urban areas (and less obviously in so-called “doctor’s wives” seats) and there are rumours they may yet take the eternally Labor seat of Melbourne Ports from its long-standing ALP member, Michael Danby, although we doubt it. This stubborn Green campaign success may well continue to cost Labor key seats at both Federal and State levels, blunting their appearance of recovery at the very least. And despite their best efforts, Labor seem so far pretty much unable to inspire enthusiasm either for Shorten personally, or for their brand of conservative social democracy.

After all, a swing to the major Opposition party – in a period of worldwide electoral upheaval – of less than two people in a hundred is hardly earth shattering. And at least some of that tiny swing can undoubtedly be accounted for by the factually and morally highly dubious “Mediscare” campaign, which might have produced a tiny increase in Labor votes, but the longer term impact may be that it also painted the party as relentlessly negative and dodgy.

Attempting to sell a “positive programme” at the same time as the most relentlessly pursued negative campaign in recent memory just rang untrue in voters’ ears.

And the Coalition’s subsequent fury over what they perceived as dirty pool will have struck some sort of chord with the wider electorate, if not with ironed-on Labor supporters, especially if the Coalition avoids anything that looks remotely like privatisation of Medicare in the next three years, just as “Kids Overboard” haunted the Coalition ever after, even after it had delivered them victory in 2001. It hung like a dead albatross around the neck of John Howard until he was swept aside by the fresh face of Kevin Rudd in 2007.

The result also reveals how vulnerable Federal parties are to wayward behaviour by their State counterparts, and especially for the Labor Party. There is little doubt that the furore over the State Labor Government’s handling of the Country Fire Authority matter cost Labor seats in Victoria, normally their strongest state. And probably cost them Government.

shortenSo whilst we admire Shorten’s hutzpah in visiting winning Labor seats in the election aftermath, we wouldn’t be entirely certain he is long for this world.

There will be no immediate move to replace him, to be sure, but the hard heads in the ALP – and there are plenty – will be looking at this result very carefully, including both the campaigning role of the Leader, as well as policy development. Anthony Albanese is one of the most loyal lieutenants any party leader could want, and Tanya Plibersek won’t toss her hat into the ring unless she’s sure of victory, but the greasy pole will be beckoning them both. And that’s before we factor in the ambition of a Chris Bowen, and others.

Any stumble by Shorten, any sign that he isn’t continuing to make ground on Turnbull, and pretty damn fast, too, and he’ll be gone. But if he doggedly pursues his agenda, and manages to ease up a little in front of the cameras instead of always seeming so earnest, he may yet get the top job one day.

 

 

 

 

We have long tried to explain to the more breathless of our right wing friends in America why Trump can secure the Republican nomination easily and still get trounced in a match up with the Democrats.

This article from Anthony Zurcher of the BBC does a better job than we could.

Donald Trump’s Hispanic voter ‘doomsday’

trump san jose

Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente should probably be a Republican. The walls in the lobby of his San Diego, California, office are dominated by photos in which he’s smiling alongside Republicans – Presidents Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and George W Bush, and 2008 nominee John McCain.

He’s donated thousands of dollars to Republican politicians over the past several decades.

When the self-made millionaire talks about government meddling in private industry – his car dealerships, currency exchange stores and real estate ventures – he takes a page right out of the Republican playbook.

“In my business 30% is owned by the United States government and 10% is owned by the state of California. I didn’t pick them as partners, but they sure know how to mess in my business,” Mr De La Fuente says. “It appears that the more people are trying to be productive, the more government tries to disrupt.”

The Rocky De L Fuentes of the world ought to have been easy pickings for a Republican Party whose leaders just over three years ago acknowledged that they were facing a demographic doomsday scenario if they didn’t broaden their appeal to the growing numbers of Hispanic voters.

Because of population growth rates, if the Republican presidential candidate won the same percentage of the Hispanic vote in 2016 as nominee Mitt Romney did in 2012 (27%), according to a study by Republican strategists, he would have to win 64% of the white vote. No Republican has done that since Ronald Reagan’s re-election landslide in 1984.

Hispanic and white voting percentages for Republicans
  • 2012 Mitt Romney reiceved 27% of the Hispanic vote and 59% of the white vote
  • 2008 John McCain received 31% of the Hispanic vote and 55% of the white vote
  • 2004 George W Bush received 44% of the Hispanic vote and 58% of the white vote

 

An even more daunting estimate, from UCLA researchers, finds that if Mr Trump wins the same percentage of the white vote that Mr Romney did (59%) he would have to carry 47% of the Hispanic vote – a number only George W Bush in 2004 approached.

If the party were to thrive, Republican National Committee analysts wrote in their 2012 post-mortem, they would have to find a way to make their party more welcoming to minority voters – particularly Hispanics. Immigration reform should be a priority. Outreach efforts must be improved. Off-putting rhetoric should be adjusted.

Instead the party nominated Donald Trump. And a few months after Mr Trump launched his presidential campaign with a sweeping condemnation of a Mexican nation that he said allows its drug-dealers and rapists to enter the US, Mr De La Fuente – who was born in the US but grew up and attended university in Mexico – announced he was also running for president.

As a Democrat.

Since then Mr De La Fuente has used his personal fortune to get on the ballot in dozens of states and has received nearly 60,000 votes – good enough for fourth place behind Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

Mr De La Fuente may be an unusual man with an unusual reaction to Mr Trump’s calls for mass deportation of undocumented Hispanic immigrants and a wall on the US-Mexico border, but his actions reflect the high price the Republican Party is paying for embracing Mr Trump.

“Trump needs to be stopped at all costs,” Mr De La Fuente says, repeatedly referring to the Republican by his derogatory Spanish nickname, “pelos del elote” (corn hair).

“The United States was founded by immigrants who were trying to leave Europe because they had rulers who were making a mockery of people’s rights,” he continues. “That’s why we created the Constitution of the US.”

He says that while Mr Trump treats undocumented immigrants as a menace, he views them as assets.

“There’s 12 million immigrants currently in the US, with or without papers, with or without the right to be here,” Mr De La Fuente says. “I did not ask them to be here. But they’re here, and they’re doing the work other people don’t want to do.”

Doomsday arrives

The animosity of Hispanic voters – 77% of whom have a negative view of Mr Trump according to a March national poll – is a development that has Republican Party officials increasingly concerned.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Mr Trump could be damaging the Republican Party among Hispanic voters the same way 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater’s stand against civil rights legislation led to generations of blacks moving to the Democratic Party.

“It did define our party, for at least African-American voters, and it still does today,”he told a television interviewer. “That was a complete shift that occurred that year, and we’ve never be able to get them back.”

mexicans

 

Hector Barajas, a Republican strategist from California, agrees. He’s seen record numbers of Hispanics register to vote in his state over the past few months – an indication that Mr Trump’s rhetoric could drive unprecedented turnout among this voting bloc.

“Elections are about addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division,” he says. “And as long as you have divisive language, you’re making it more difficult not just for yourself to win but for other individuals who are also campaigning, whether you are running for Senate or congressional seats or even down the line for city council.”

Barajas co-founded Grow Elect in 2011, an organisation that recruits and trains Hispanic Republicans in California to enter politics. He says Mr Trump is making the task increasingly difficult, as Hispanics in the US wonder why their ethnicity is being singled out for Mr Trump’s opprobrium.

“Here you have a group of individuals that are willing to come to this country, work as hard as we work, join in the military, work the long hours just to try to provide a better place for our family and for our society,” Barajas says. “Yet at the same time they’re targeted with this type of language which is very divisive.”

California redux

Barajas should know about the political dangers of words and policies that can be branded as anti-Hispanic. He had a front-row seat in the 1990s, when Proposition 187 – a state ballot measure that sought to deny government benefits, including healthcare and public schooling, to undocumented workers and their children – helped cement the views of Latino voters there against the Republican Party.

“With Proposition 187 you had a very strong campaign that seemed to blame a lot of the ills of California on Hispanics,” Barajas says. “You’re looking at two generations that have been lost because of that rhetoric.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger waves at a campaign rally in 2003

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the only Republican to win statewide election in California since 1994.

The initiative passed in 1994 with 59% of the vote and was credited with helping Republican Governor Pete Wilson win re-election – but it was eventually overturned by the courts. And the only Republican to win a statewide race in California since then was Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a quirky 2003 special election following Democratic Governor Gray Davis’s recall,

The spectre of 187 is still used in elections to this day – as Democrats try to paint Republicans, and even some fellow Democrats, as sympathetic to those efforts in the 1990s.

For California Republicans, Barajas says, the tragedy is that they were just starting to put the damage from past battles behind them by focusing on an economic message that could unite a diverse electorate.

“In California, we have a tremendous amount of new jobs that have been created,” he said. “But a lot of these jobs are part time and they pay lower wages, and they don’t have health insurance or they tend to be in service or in retail. That doesn’t do much to provide a leg up for families.”

Instead, the Republican Party is left playing defence – in California and in essential general-election battleground states with large Hispanic populations, like Florida, Nevada, Virginia and Colorado.

Barajas worries that even traditionally conservative states like Texas and Arizona could be fertile terrain for Democrats.

Trump undaunted

If the electoral reality confronting the Republican Party is clear, it hasn’t changed Mr Trump’s views – or his rhetoric.

“We are going to have a strong border, and we are going to have a wall,” Mr Trump said at a rally in California last week. “And you know who is going to pay for the wall? Who?”

“Mexico!” the crowd shouted in reply.

“One hundred percent,” Trump said. “Not even a question.”

Mr Trump has caught particular heat over the past few days after he highlighted the ethnicity of Gonzalo Curiel, the US-born Indiana judge who is presiding over the fraud case against the now defunct for-profit Trump University.

The judge, Mr Trump said, has a conflict of interest because he is the son of Mexican immigrants.

“We’re building a wall,” Mr Trump said in a television interview. “He’s a Mexican.”

The comments have been criticised by Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans and featured in a Clinton attack video.

Raul Grijalva, a Democratic Congressman from Arizona, says that Mr Trump’s comments are the latest example of his strategy to use the Mexican-American community “as a foil”.

“Trump is playing his Trump card in this election, and that is to introduce a level of racism in this race that continues to frighten people and he hopes drive supporters to his side,” he says. “It is a rhetoric and strategy that further divides this country, and it’s not good for anybody.”

Raul Grijalva speaks at an immigration rally in 2014.

Congressman Raul Grijalva says Donald Trump is trying to win votes by using Mexican-Americans as a foil

He doesn’t see a way the Republican Party can avoid a long-term electoral disaster from Mr Trump’s campaign.

“The Republican leadership has become like the Vichy French,” he says. “They’ve kind of given up.”

Efforts to get Mr Trump to moderate his tone are “clearly not working right now,” Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona said on Monday.

Unlike most senior Republican officeholders, Mr Flake has yet to fall in line behind his party’s nominee. At this point, the #NeverTrump movement is on life support, and the Arizona senator’s words are tinged with resignation not resistance.

Mr Trump’s remarks on Curiel were offensive, he said, and “if he doesn’t change, we’re in big trouble”.

The 2010 result - next Thursday will be wildly different.

The 2010 result – next Thursday will be wildly different.

Dear Reader, we have often claimed a 100% record for our election predictions around the world since around 1979. Of course, the fact that we haven’t managed to parlay these into a cushy job standing around in an ill-fitting suit on TV on election night is another matter altogether. Still, it’s a fun game: half political nous, half consumer insight, and half instinct.

Thus friends who have been following our prognostications for half a lifetime or more have been urging us to put up or shut up. Mostly, we suspect, shut up.

But this election in the UK is proving notoriously difficult to call accurately.

For those of you who aren’t following it with the same obsessive pleasure as your indefatigable correspondent, we will lay out the basic issues.

A majority government after next Thursday?

Will either Labour or the Conservatives get an overall majority of seats?

This is the easy one. No. The reasons are many and varied, but the essentials are that no one party is particularly popular in a country that is ravaged by political division and has endured tough times in recent years.

Normally, tough times would usher in the Opposition, on the basis that Oppositions don’t win elections, Governments lose them.

But there is the rather odd situation this time where none of the major party leaders are genuinely popular, and the electorate is also keenly aware of the fact that no major party seems to have a very clear idea of what to do to combat the general economic malaise affecting a Europe stricken with structural debt and over-spending, matched to low levels of productivity and innovation.

Labour would have won the election in the good old bad old days, but the seemingly unstoppable rise and rise of the populist, quasi-socialist Scottish National Party (and to a lesser extent their Welsh equivalent) will rob them of the seats in the major urban areas of of the Celtic states that they historically thought they “owned”.

The Lib Dems, although they have done a little better in the last week thanks to a creeping decline in the UKIP vote as the anti-immigration party come under greater scrutiny and a good performance from party leader Nick Clegg in a TV debate, will not win enough seats to make another straight Tory/Lib Dem Coalition a possibility.

So who will be the next Prime Minister?

That’s probably a rather easier one. If one adds the likely SNP wins to the likely Labour wins, then it will be Ed Milliband of Labour. Except that he has gone out of his way to insist (without any credibility) that he will not even consider an agreement where the SNP guarantee supply, let alone a full-blown coalition, so there is still some uncertainty. If Labour wins the popular vote (say by 35-34%) in the old days that would have seen them within a seat or two of a majority given the current standing of the Lib Dems and UKIP. The rise of the SNP is a new political reality that Westminster has to grapple with.

As we cannot predict with any certainty what politicians will do behind closed doors – who would have bet on the Lib Dems backing the pro-austerity Euro-sceptic Tories last time rather than their more amenable centre-left Labour colleagues? – we cannot predict what will happen after Thursday. But we suspect the outcome may be as follows, or something like it:

As the leader of the largest party, and the sitting PM, the Queen will invite David Cameron to try and form a majority Government – which may need to be tested on the floor of the Commons – but he will fail to pass a vote of confidence. The Lib Dems won’t have enough seats to get him over the line, even with the support of the protestants from Northern Ireland and a couple of UKIP MPs, and anyway they will abstain because of the current Tory insistence on an “in out” referendum on the EU.

The Queen will then invite Ed Milliband to do the same, and his motion WILL pass, but without a formal agreement with the SNP, putting him in power as a genuine minority Government – a situation almost unknown in British governmental history. Why will it pass? Simply because the SNP will calculate that they have more chance of negotiating successfully and informally with Labour, with whom they share many policy objectives, than they would with the Conservatives, who are anathema to them and their supporters. In effect – and this may be Milliband’s current calculation – they are pretty much caught in the cleft stick of their own anti-Tory rhetoric.

This process could take a long time, and will be the subject of fevered discussion in the media and the country. If you thought post-2010 was chaotic, it’ll be nothing compared to this.

So why not just call the election now? Isn’t that what you’re doing?

Well, sort of. Except when we make predictions we like them to be as accurate as possible, and there’s one factor that prevents a rush to final judgement.

The last weekend

One of the things most misunderstood by political pundits and commentators that have never actually been politically active themselves is the effect of the “ground game”, as the Americans call it. The Obama ground game – making sure one’s own supporters get out and vote in sufficient numbers, and getting waverers back into the fold – was the main reason he won re-election in 2012, for example, and it went to pot in the 2014 mid-terms, which is why the Republicans did so much better then.

(That’s a deep simplification, and other factors were at play in both elections, but it’s essentially a very true and much-ignored fact.)

Yes, the all-important ground game: that’s the effect on the electorate of the work done by political parties in each constituency. These can produce utterly skewed results, seat by seat. Taken over the country as a whole, they can affect the result significantly.

We won’t know the effect of the last weekend’s campaigning until polls are taken on Sunday night (by telephone) in key marginals, hopefully picking up any last minute impacts.

Similarly, whilst it might be hard for those of us obsessed with such matters to believe it, politics isn’t the most important factor in many people’s lives. So many people make their mind up in the last few days of an election, including, in the UK, whether to vote or not at all. We would normally suggest a low turnout for this poll, given the unpopularity of the main parties, but two other factors suggest it will be an average or even slightly higher turnout. One: other options now exist for disenchanted voters to express a protest vote, such as UKIP, the Greens and the Nationalists. Two: everyone understands the election is close, and therefore people feel their individual vote may carry more weight than usual. Those people are not yet reflected in polls – unless they are “Don’t Knows” – and in a tight election working out what they might do is central to understanding what will happen.

Sanders

For those of you who may never have lived in a marginal seat, here’s a brilliant example of what’s known as a “Last minute squeeze leaflet” employed by sitting Lib Dem MP in Torbay, Devon, Adrian Sanders. Normally, one would expect Sanders to be in trouble in this seat, which was a Tory fiefdom for decades, despite the fact that he is a hard-working local MP who is well-respected. But this leaflet makes it clear to all those who intend voting that only the Lib Dems or the Tories have a realistic chance of winning. Voters like being on the winning side – messages like this, if conveyed successfully, produce so-called “tactical voting” (aka I want the MP I least dislike) – which can boost the result for one of the main contenders or another.

Of course, the Tories can employ the same tactic against intending UKIP voters – and will, in this seat and others. Both Tory and Labour candidates will ruthlessly “squeeze” Lib Dem candidates and others in seats where they are going head to head.

How well each party makes this argument, seat by seat, will have a profound effect on the result. Pollsters will be seeking to track that effect from Sunday night onwards, which is why we will reserve our final prediction for a day or so.

We will note these general trends, which we expect to show up more clearly in polls over the next few days.

  • The number of “Don’t Knows” is falling, and this will increase as next Thursday approaches. Opinion polls that combine face-to-face interviewing with telephone interviewing, and which include constituency-specific data in their polling, will be more accurate, and are the ones to follow.
  • UKIP’s vote has peaked and is in decline. They have had, essentially, a poor campaign. Will probably only win two seats in England.
  • The SNP will probably not win all the seats in Scotland, as people have so breathlessly been reporting, but they will win a great many. The Lib Dems will retain Orkney and Shetland and maybe one more seat.
  • Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats is now marginally less likely to lose his seat of Sheffield Hallam than he was a couple of weeks back. The Lib Dem vote is trending up again, inch by laborious inch, and we expect it to end up on or near 9-10% nationally. Predicting their result nationally is fiendishly difficult because there are some seats – Eastleigh is a good example – where their ground game and local Government presence makes it almost impossible for them to lose, whereas on notional national swings they could. We have said all along they will end up with 20 seats or less – which will be a disaster for them – but we concede that other wise heads predict 20-to-30. We think we’re nearer right than wrong.
  • The Greens will only hold one seat after the election, the one they hold now in Brighton.

More news as it comes to hand. We will make our fearless prediction on Monday or Tuesday. Maybe.

Interestingly, The Independent newspaper’s poll of polls where they consult the heads of the ten largest polling organisations is headlined “A Tory lead but a Labour Government” and includes this very apposite comment from one of the pollsters, Michelle Harrison of TNS:

This election represents what happens when a country is not confident about its economic future, unsure of its place in the world, and fed up with the state of its politics.

The political stalemate at the centre, and the fragmentation of the traditional party system, has left us with a set of polls incapable of telling what will ultimately happen, when there are so many potential scenarios. What we can feel confident about though is that Thursday will be a seismic night for politics in Scotland. When the votes are counted, we expect the Tories to be the largest party, but that Labour should still have the greatest chance of forming a government. But how do we measure the advantage for the Conservatives of already being in No 10 in the days after the general election? The real drama will start on Friday.

We agree. Meanwhile, if you think you know better, put your assumptions into this rather excellent Election Predictor, one of many around. Here’s another good one. Hours of innocent fun for all the family …

Incidentally, putting an average of the most recent polls into predictors today (using different figures for Scotland of course) gives this result which would mean our predictions over the last year about most of the result have been well-nigh spot on. Long way to go yet though:

National Prediction: Conservative short 46 of majority

Party 2010 Votes 2010 Seats Pred Votes Gains Losses Pred Seats
CON 37.0% 307 33.5% 18 45 280
LAB 29.7% 258 31.5% 53 33 278
LIB 23.6% 57 10.0% 0 40 17
UKIP 3.2% 0 13.8% 2 0 2
Green 1.0% 1 5.1% 0 0 1
SNP 1.7% 6 4.1% 45 0 51
PlaidC 0.6% 3 0.6% 0 0 3
Minor 3.4% 0 1.4% 0 0 0
N.Ire 18 0 0 18

crystal ballHere at the Wellthisiswhatithink crystal ball gazers society, we have something of a reputation for calling elections correctly. In fact, we have got every Parliamentary election (UK Westminster, Australia Victoria and Federal), and Presidential election (USA), correct since 1979, including the “hung Parliament” in the UK last time. And sometimes we’ve been spot on: we made quite a bit of dosh on the electoral college figures for Obama not once but twice.

It’s not really rocket science. It’s just about knowing what one is about. Check the polls, assiduously, all of them – not for the hard figures, but rather how they fluctuate over time. Or don’t.

Vitually all elections follow a trendline. The “Big Mo”, or momentum, the Americans call it. Viewed externally, that is to say not working for one of the major campaigns, it’s usually surprisingly simple to discern the mo. Just listen to people in the street, in your office, in cafes, watch the news, scan social media, sit in the pub with your ears open. Watch people’s faces. It’s normally unmistakeable who they intend voting for when push comes to shove.

Which is why we are absolutely certain that the Labor Party will win tomorrow’s election in Victoria.

Since the disastrous Federal Budget in April, the Liberal National Coalition have not headed the ALP. The poll then was 52-48. It has never been better for the Lib-Nats than that, although it has been worse.

And right up until today it was still 52-48, although the very latest poll for the Age (taken over the last three days) now has it as 50-50 on a “two party preferred basis” after a notional redistribution of preferences.

And 50-50, ladies and gentlemen, is mo. But it’s a switch: at the very last minute, it is momentum for the Liberals and Nationals, not the ALP. So whilst we are absolutely certain that the ALP will win, we actually aren’t, anymore. Certain,that is. Because if that momentum continues over into tomorrow, it could really be a real squeaky bum hole night for both major parties.

So after months of the contest being a “no contest”, what is happening?

The race is closing. It’s been obvious for a week or so. Whether it closes enough will decide the result.

Partly this is because people – ordinary folk, not political junkies – only really focus on who to vote for right at the last minute, and sometimes when they actually get into the polling booth. That effect is lessened when the election is interesting, or about great matters of moment. Neither applies here.

The other factor is there is a world of difference between answering an opinion poll question and actually voting for who you want to be your government.

Right up to the declaration of results for the last state election, for example, the incumbents – Labor – were considered a shoe in – steady, unspectacular Labor that was, with a respected if not loved leader in John Brumby, and no obvious slip ups in living memory.

Except there was a strong undercurrent running that the opinion polls failed to pick up because they couldn’t frame a question that could capture it: that the reason Labor never made a mistake was because they never actually did anything. And that was enough to deliver the narrowest of wins to the Coalition. We picked it – we hated Brumby’s smarmy, self-satisfied performance which was obviously mostly fluff, and we reckoned lots of other people did too – no media pundits did.

It was even acknowledged by the current leader of the Labor Party immediately after the election that this lack of achievement – talking a good story but doing little – was the single biggest reason for their defeat.

Is there such an undercurrent running now? Well, once again, we believe there is. And the undercurrent is made up of a number of factors.

The first is that the Australian electorate is incredibly and consistently “small c” conservative: it dislikes change. Less so nowadays, but still very discernibly.

There hasn’t been a one term Government in Victoria since 1955 – nearly 60 years ago. We have a visceral dislike for changing Governments at all levels, and only do so when we are convinced that the one in power currently is exceptionally incompetent or venal. Those criticisms cannot be levelled at Napthine’s government.

They have delivered a strong budget surplus, kept taxes down, are offering to spend a billion more on pork barrelling than Labor as a result – yes, the Libs are the big spenders in this election – and they have been effectively clear of sleaze or corruption with the exception of the hideous Geoff Shaw debacle in Frankston, which in our view the electorate has now pretty much forgotten.

It’s one thing to tell a pollster that you’re thinking of giving the Libs a kick in the tush because, well, just because it seems the appropriately iconoclastic thing to do – it’s quite another thing to consciously put geeky, gawky “Dan” Andrews into the big job when likeable old Napthine hasn’t really done anything wrong. We think that will give people pause for thought that hasn’t been picked up in the polls.

The second is that the Liberals and Nationals are infinitely more effective at encouraging and organising people to vote early by post or pre-poll, and there have already been 1 million such votes cast …

Earlier today we heard a radio commentator opine that the more that the gross number of pre/postal votes climbed, the more accurately they will mirror the overal vote pattern. That is to say, as they have been collected over the last three weeks in large numbers, they should be expected to break, say, 52-48 in favour of Labour.

But in our personal experience the effectiveness of the Liberal “ground game” significantly outweighs Labor’s, (the opposite is true in the USA), and therefore we suspect these already-cast ballots could break much closer to 51-49 to the Coalition. If that’s the case, and the vote in the booths tomorrow is roughly 50-50, then this could still be a very, very close election indeed.

Against that, and as a whole, Victoria tends to lean to the ALP at all elections.

It was the best state for Labor at the last Federal election, even with the relentless train wreck that was the Rudd-Gillard fiasco. And the feeling that the Federal budget was tailor-made to be nasty to the little people has been exacerbated by the very well understood piece of political calculation that Messrs Abbott and Hockey are both rich, both Sydneysiders, and both seem uncomfortable and sometimes contemptuous when speaking about the rest of Australia past the Blue Mountains.

Picking up on that angst, the TV know-it-alls reckon the seats down the Frankston line will be the deciders in the contest, chock full of annoyed battlers and retirees, and they might be right, at that – Frankston and Carrum look very wobbly at least – but we suspect that is so much received wisdom, especially as it ignores the contests in marginals in the countryside such as the regional cities of Ballaraat and Bendigo which might well be closer than predicted. There has been an assumption made that Labor will snap up some of the country marginals, too, but the very Melbourne-centric Labor Party doesn’t play well in regional Vic, whereas bumbly, horse-owning country vet Dennis Napthine plays unusually well.

In the country, Napthine is often touted as “one of us”, which could not with the best will in the world be said of long-term party apparatchick Daniel Andrews, despite him being brought up in Wangarratta in the State’s north. Not for nothing has he been spruiking that fact again and again in recent weeks: nevertheless, his urban veneer is perfectly obvious.

The last factor that is being largely ignored by the chattering chardonnay drinking classes in the inner city is that, far from being a vote loser, the very controversial East-West Link (road tunnel) which has led almost every news bulletin in what seems like a year has actually been becoming more and more popular with the voters as the Government has patiently explained its rationale, and voters in a string of semi-marginal Eastern and outer-Eastern seats have sweltered in traffic jams at the Hoddle St exits.

Certainly the project has been controversial, and one could argue the Government’s obdurate secrecy on much of the detail has been annoying for many. But ultimately, the question is, “Would I like to get to the Tullamarine Freeway from the end of the Eastern Freeway 20 minutes faster than I can now?”

There are tends of thousands of frustrated commuting motorists – not to mention commercial truck drivers – who will say “Yes”. Sure, they’re not the types that protest on street corners, but they do vote.

And the latest opinion poll on the topic, almost ignored by most of the media because it doesn’t suit the anti-tunnel hysteria they themselves have whipped up, has approval for the East-West Link sitting at a pretty emphatic 63%. That’s a big enough gap in favour to be significant. Not for nothing have the Liberals been bleating that only they will build the East-West Link. If they can get 50.5% of that 63% to vote for them, they’ve held onto power.

So there we have it. The Liberals and Nationals will retain power and Napthine will continue as Premier, at least for now. We know this to be true.

Except, we don’t. Our gut instinct still tells us that a small Labor win – perhaps a majority of as little as two or three seats – is the most likely result. A very good Labor win would look like a majority of maybe 8: anything above that would be a landslide and that is very unlikely. So if we had to part with our wrinkled ten shilling note at the bookies, we’d stick with Labor to win – just – if for no other reason than enough people might want to send a nasty message to the detested Tony Abbott and will sweep poor old well-meaning Napthine aside in the process.

And we’ve been confidently predicting Labor to win for a year. So: Labor to win. Just.

Unless, of course, they don’t. In which case, you – er – heard it here first.

PS Real political junkie stuff. Will the Greens win any lower house seats? We’re guessing no. Who would replace Napthine as party leader if he loses? Matthew Guy. Who incidentally, would have won this election hands down, if the Baillieu camp had not headed him off at the pass by handing the leadership to Napthine in the first place. Or to put it another way, be careful what you wish for.

"Who's the guy over your left shoulder?" "Can't remember, keep smiling ..."

“Who’s the guy over your left shoulder?” “Can’t remember, keep smiling …”

Good news for everyone who has missed Julia Gillard in public life – and there are some – she’s back.

The former Prime Minister has lain low since the 2013 leadership spill — but she appeared in public today to launch a former colleague’s book. Looking healthy and cheerful, (and on her pension, frankly, why the hell not?) Gillard launched former climate change and industry minister Greg Combet’s memoir, The Fights of My Life, at the NSW Trades Hall this morning.

In her address, Gillard issued a language warning to readers — joking that anyone who blushed from bad language needed to have a cold compress on hand.

Interestingly for us, Gillard also confirmed she urged Combet to run as leader when it became clear it was her time to go, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. She said: “I wanted to see the next part of his life being for the support of his colleagues to lead the Labor government into the 2013 election but it was not to be”.

Former Labor minister Combet recently told the ABC’s 7.30 that Ms Gillard had offered to stand aside for him if he wished to do battle with Mr Rudd. Instead he retired from politics at the 2013 election.

In our opinion, history will judge that this was a crucial loss of nerve. Combet is tough as nails, as seen by his principled and courageous leadership of the dockworkers in their battle with Patricks and the Howard Government, especially when battling the intransigence and bullying of Peter Reith. As the veteran of dozens of industrial negotiations, he had the sort of “real world” experience that a political junkie like Tony Abbott lacks, and although he would probably still have lost to Abbott on the principle of Buggin’s Turn (Labor was surely un-re-electable, wasn’t it?) he would have made a thoughtful, serious, incisive leader of the Opposition and #onetermtony would have very predictably been up for taking in two and a half years.

As it stands, we suspect our next Prime Minister will be Combet’s mate Bill Shorten, (although he did back Albanese in the leadership contest), so no harm done, from their perspective. But with his gnarly, bespectacled intensity and sheer intellectual clout we think Greg Combet might just have been the Prime Minister Australia never suspected he could be. We said so at the time. No-one agreed – in fact, we were were laughed out of court by everyone we advanced the theory to. Which is why we now find Ms Gillard’s and Mr Combet’s revelations interesting. Or to put it another way, nar nar nar, we told you so.

If this isn't the next Prime Minister of Australia, then god didn't make the little green apples, and it don't rain in Indianapolis in the summertime ...

If this isn’t the next Prime Minister of Australia, then God didn’t make the little green apples, and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime …

We’re historically pretty good at picking winners.

Despite a recent (but very temporary) bump in the poll standings for Tony Abbott over his brawny Putin-tweaking response to the downing of MH17, put your money (if you can find someone to take it) on Malcom Turnbull to replace him in a coup before Christmas, especially after the shambolic ALP in Victoria nevertheless manage to reasonably comfortably topple the incompetent but poorly-communicating Liberal-National Party Coalition in November.

In Victoria, Labor are current 3-1 “on” a victory, (hardly worth the risk, except one third of your stake for certain is better than none of it for getting it wrong, we guess) and the Coalition 2-1 against. If the Coalition suddenly lifts its game we reserve our rights to change that prediction, because if a week is a long time in politics then 122 days and 5 hours is a positive aeon, but we don’t see any real sign that is going to happen.

Considering the Napthine Government just delivered the highest spending infrastructure budget in Victoria’s history without borrowing a cent, one does actually feel rather sorry for them.

Of further interest to those who mainline psephology, (oh, look it up), we see that Labour in the UK are 5/6 to win the largest number of seats there, against Evens for the Tories. We think that’s too tight, and Labour are currently much better placed. We’d be interested, if you disagree, to know why. And in the US the Democrats are paying 1.60 to the dollar against 2.25 for the GOP. Unless Hillary is discovered doing something highly illegal between now and 2016, we reckon you should lump on, although the mid-terms later this year will be a further helpful guide, so maybe hold off for now.

Er … that’s it.

*Gabbled in a very fast high-pitched voice “All betting advice is purely speculative and should not be taken as true. Don’t rely on us. All care, no responsibility. No, nu-uh, tough shit, so sue us.”*

One of the funny moments of the night was my mate remarking "The bloody Abbott kids look like they're in a Robert Palmer video" and sticking the comment on Facebook. Next day, blow me down if that comment isn't an internet meme. Well done, Greg, I'm your witness.

One of the funny moments of the night was my mate remarking “The bloody Abbott kids look like they’re in a Robert Palmer video” and sticking the comment on Facebook. Next day, blow me down if that comment isn’t an internet meme. Well done, Greg, I’m your witness.

We are big enough at Wellthisiswhatithink to say when we got something wrong. And we did. We predicted a 6-7% swing to the Coalition over Labor, and it turns out, nationally, to have been about 3.5%. We thought we did detect a slight movement back towards the Government in the last couple of days, but not enough to alter our prediction significantly.

Well we should have. It looks like the ALP have done about seven seats better than we thought they would at their best.

So: to what do we credit the late Labor increase?

Possibly a sense from some voters, as they went into the polling booths, that they simply could not countenance voting for Tony Abbott. Possibly some intended to vote for the ALP all along but were too embarrassed to tell the pollsters that. Who knows?

Anyhow, it was still a bloody awful night for Labor, a very emphatic win for the Liberal/NP Coalition, and any talk that the ALP will find it easy to bounce back and win the next election is poppycock.

Labor is now a long, long way behind, and Abbott will have to make an absolute cock-up not to win re-election in 2016 or thereabouts.

Labor must use the interregnum to build a whole new party, with a clear idea of why it exists, and chock full of new talent, some of whom won’t even be in the Parliament yet. It needs to re-build itself as a major force, with a well understood purpose, and with infinitely more discipline than it has shown in recent years. And that’s just to be competitive.

The reason for Labor’s less-than-total-disaster-but-not-much-better result is essentially down to it doing better than expected in Queensland than expected, (including Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd holding their seats), and in New South Wales, where a bunch of Western Sydney seats that should have fallen appear to have been heroically defended on the ground by their sitting MPs and supporters.

Maybe the Coalition wasn’t quite as aggressive as they should have been, and missed a chance.

Then again, Tasmania was worse for the ALP than we expected, South Australia about what we expected, and Western Australia better than we expected – this really was an election that proves what many have said before: all politics is local.

Anyhow, here’s where we were right or wrong on a seat by seat basis.

Richmond NSW GainedNAT 0.01%
The local Labor MP is popular and may resist the trend, but this is traditionally a conservative seat and we pick it to return to the Nationals.
What actually happened: WRONG Justin Elliott suffered about a 4% swing against her but held on gamely.

Barton NSW GainedLIB 0.1%
With well-known local MP Robert McClelland retiring and the less well-known Labor candidate up against a Greek-extraction local Mayor, Doc Evatt’s old seat will be one of the more painful losses of the night for the ALP.
What actually happened: DON’T KNOW YET Labor suffered a swing of nearly7% and are hangling on by the thinnest of threads – 62 votes – with 77% counted. There’s over 7,000 mainly conservative small party and independent votes left to count and 3,700 Greens. Will go down to the wire.

Werriwa NSW GainedLIB 0.3%
Martin Ferguson’s elder brother Laurie should be a shoe-in for this seat held by former Labor leaders Gough Whitlam and Mark Latham but it is another pick by us for a shock result in Sydney’s western suburbs.
What actually happened: WRONG Laurie Ferguson one of the Western Sydney warriors who kept the swing down below their margin. Re-elected.

Bass TAS GainedLIB 0.3%
Geoff Lyons turned this into a safe seat for Labor at the last election, but continuing economic malaise in Tassie and coming up against a decorated war hero for the Libs will probably see him off.
What actually happened: CORRECT Decorated war hero Andrew Nikolic grabs the seat away from Labor with a massive 10%+ swing.

Hindmarsh SA GainedLIB 0.9%
The precedent to look at here is the defeat of the Keating Labor Government in 1996. Redistribution has made it slightly safer for Labor recently, but it’s older population are even less inclined to vote ALP than everyone else. Opinion poll in late August had it at 50:50 two-party-preferred. Labor have gone backward since then: gone.
What actually happened: CORRECT Steve Georganis swept aside by the national mood, where others like Kate Ellis in Adelaide survived.

Perth WA GainedLIB 1.1%
Labor have parachuted in a popular ex State MP and Minister and this seat may buck the trend, but no one is sure how big Stephen Smith’s personal vote was. (Our guess, it will still go.)
What actually happened: WRONG Great work by outgoing MP Stephen Smith as campaign manager for Alannah MacTiernan sees her home by a comfortable margin. One of the best results of the night for Labor.

Chisholm VIC GainedLIB 1.2%
Ex-speaker Anna Burke is popular locally but Victoria is falling back in line with the rest of the country after its pro-Gillard performance last time, and an excellent ethnic-Vietnamese Liberal candidate and a clutch of stalking horse minor right-wing parties all preferencing him will see her gone.
What actually happened: WRONG Anna Burke’s personal popularity gets her over the line after all.

Oxley QLD GainedLNP 1.2%
Pauline Hanson’s old seat has more couples with babies than any other in the state: no doubt paid parental leave will resonate here. And both Katter and Palmer preferencing the Libs will make this just one more of the overall ugly picture in the Sunshine State for the ALP.
What actually happened: WRONG Chalk this one up for the “Who the hell knows, it’s Queensland not Australia” factor. One of the clutch of Queensland seats that should have been gone for all money, but wasn’t.

Fremantle WA GainedLIB 1.3%
Melissa Parke is attractive, popular and talented, with a very impressive CV: she may hang on: but we pick her to fall in Carmen Lawrence’s old seat, somewhat unfairly perhaps, to the country-wide Liberal/NP tsunami.
What actually happened: WRONG Rather pleased to see we got this one wrong, strong union ties in the docks area will have helped.

Rankin QLD GainedLNP 1.6%
Craig Emerson’s retiring, and this rock solid Labor seat falling will be one of the news stories of the night. It won’t help the new Labor candidate that he was a policy wonk and then Chief of Staff to Wayne Swan, a man now actively detested in Queensland, nor by both Katter and Palmer interfering.
What actually happened: WRONG Bizarre. Has to be called a shock. One wonders, frankly, whether the fact the Liberal National Party candidate was Asian counted against him …

Kingsford Smith NSW GainedLIB 1.8%
Another “shock horror” news story. Bye bye Peter Garrett. Bye bye seat.
What actually happened: WRONG Called for the Libs by insiders on the ground as recently as two days ago … but one of the unexpected Labor “holds”.

Dobell NSW GainedLIB 1.9%
Craig Thomson’s seat. Need we say more?
What actually happened: CORRECT No, we didn’t need to say more. Gone.

Parramatta NSW GainedLIB 2.6%
Nearly went back to the Libs last time. Will this time.
What actually happened: WRONG Still ultra-marginal but Julie Owens survives – just.

Eden-Monaro NSW GainedLIB 2.8%
Australia’s most reliable “litmus test” seat, having been won by the party that formed government at every election since 1972. It will be again.
What actually happened: CORRECT Popular local Labor man did his best and looked like he might hang on, but he hasn’t.

Blair QLD GainedLNP 2.8%
Labor’s Shayne Neumann is popular locally, but that won’t save him from the anti-Labor swing in Qld.
What actually happened: WRONG It did save him.

Page NSW GainedNAT 2.8%
Since 1990 the electorate has been another key bellwether seat, being won at every election by the party that formed government after the election. Sitting Labor MP Janelle Saffin is popular, but nothing will save Labor in NSW this time round.
What actually happened: CORRECT Another popular local Labor identity who performed creditably, but the seat heads to the Nats.

Lingiari NT GainedCLP 3.3%
Combattive ALP member Warren Snowdon might buck the trend in the seat with the largest percentage of indigenous Australians in the country. But we doubt it. Then again, the NT is a long way from anywhere. CLP candidate confident.
What actually happened: CORRECT Veteran Labor MP looks like he has lost. Still a sliver of hope, but fading fast.

Capricornia QLD GainedLNP 3.3%
Michelle Landry did well for the Libs last time in a seat with a large mining sector. With Labor MP Kirsten Livermore retiring, she’ll go one better this time.
What actually happened: DON’T KNOW YET Labor suffered a swing of nearly 8% and are hanging on for grim death – 140 votes – ahead as we write – with 79% counted. Lots of conservative minor party votes to be distributed, we still call this as a Liberal gain.

Brand WA GainedLIB 3.7%
Kim Beazely’s old seat has been going slightly bad for the ALP for a while. The decline will be terminal for Minister Gary Gray on Saturday. Late icing on the Liberal cake.
What actually happened: WRONG Gray’s experience will be back to help Labor re-build in one of the most important “holds” for them on the night. His excellent relations with the mining industry lends the ALp much needed credibility.

Lilley QLD GainedLNP 3.8%
You really think Wayne Swan can win his seat again? Really?
What actually happened: WRONG He really did. Rudd apparently limiting the swing against Labor in Queensland – theoretically – ironically saved one of Rudd’s most passionate opponents within his own party. Remarkable result for Swan personally.

Reid NSW GainedLIB 4.3%
John Murphy is an assiduously hard working local member in what should be rock-solid Labor territory. But we don’t think he can resist the swing … when it’s on, it’s on.
What actually happened: DON’T KNOW YET Really too close to call yet. Green preferences may see John Murphy back, but it’s squeaky bum time.

Petrie QLD GainedLNP 4.5%
One of the more re-electable ALP members, Yvette D’Ath still looks very likely to be swept away in the landslide.
What actually happened: DON’T KNOW YET Incredibly close. Suspect D’Ath will lose, but time will tell.

La Trobe VIC GainedLIB 5.3%
Redistributions, demographic change, and the national swing will see this seat return to its former Liberal MP, Jason Wood
What actually happened: CORRECT Brave fight by popular Labor candidate, but gone.

Banks NSW GainedLIB 5.6%
Only ever held by Labor since it’s establishment, the local state seats have already moved to the Libs, and Labor’s Daryl Melham cannot resist how badly the ALP are on the nose in NSW. Gone.
What actually happened: CORRECT One that didn’t survive for Labor.

Moreton QLD GainedLNP 5.9%
Doesn’t matter how many times electorate redistributions nudge the seat back to the ALP, it’s gone in the Queensland bloodbath this time for sure.
What actually happened: WRONG The story of this election is the number of Queensland seats Labor defended against the odds.

Lindsay NSW GainedLIB 5.9%
Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury has no Liberal cock-ups to rely on this time. He will be one of the early high-profile Ministerial casualties of the night.
What actually happened: CORRECT He was.

Robertson NSW GainedLIB 6.0%
Deborah O’Neill was one of the surprise winners for Labor at the last election, but there seems no realistic chance of her resisting the pro-Coalition swing this time.
What actually happened: CORRECT She didn’t.

Greenway NSW GainedLIB 6.1%
Despite Liberal candidate Jaymes Diaz stumbling early on, there seems no reason why this seat will not head back to the Liberals. His popularity with local branches will help him perform credibly on the ground. And it’s Western Sydney. Nuff said.
What actually happened: WRONG Seems like local people were watching. Classic train wreck.

Deakin VIC GainedLIB 6.4%
Will be one of the early gains for the Coalition. Always a Liberal-leaning seat, it’s a certain gain this time.
What actually happened: CORRECT Huge Liberal effort paid off. Actually, they probably didn’t win as big as they expected to.

Corangamite VIC GainedLIB 6.7%
Popular local TV presenter and activist Sarah Henderson will win this most marginal seat easily. Indeed, she could even win on first preferences.
What actually happened: CORRECT And she nearly did, with 48.22%. Rock solid win.

So. We were sort of right. And sort of wrong. A bit righter than wronger. Just.

Labor lost other seats we didn’t expect like Bass and Braddon in Tassie. And as we said, Kevin Rudd kept his seat, just.

Phew. Quite a trot. Well, we’re all Aussie politicked out for a while.

And if you’ll believe that, Dear Reader, you’ll believe anything.

(Tomorrow, we try and make sense of the Senate election for you – Ed.)

Close call – who do you think won?

Well, it depends who you ask.

I thought Biden looked measurably more confident – and well briefed – than Ryan. But with me, he is singing with the choir. I have long considered Biden a very impressive and honourable individual, and I am openly arguing for a return of Obama to the Presidency. So how did it all look to non Obama fans?

Immediate post debate reaction seems more mixed. Some people did not like Biden’s aggression and interrupting. Fair enough: and it never plays well with the general public. On the other hand, I am sure this is how he was briefed, as the Obama campaign considered their man had abandoned the field in the previous debate, so it would have done the workers, supporters and ironed-ons no harm at all to see their side be more confident and combative.

The “Undecided” panel from CNN (who make up the worm respondents) judged it thusly:

Biden was strongest on the economy, certainly when discussing the middle class, and was lowest on the Libyan consulate affair. (Which goes to a generalised lack of trust in the Administration, although one foreign policy incident is surely a lower order issue taken in the whole scheme of things.) On the other hand, Biden scored well in an opinion poll on the judgement of whether he could step up and be President if needed.

Ryan was also strongest on the economy, (surely a sign that people are genuinely confused as to the best way to go) and, interestingly, weakest on abortion. In other words, he was caught talking to his own base, and ignoring the more nuanced attitudes on the topic from mainstream America.

In the end they voted it a tie. On the panel, Obama picked up three intending votes, Romney picked up 3. Hardly a scientific pool, but overall, I suspect the effect of the debate is likely to solidify the base support and move a tiny percentage of undecideds to the Romney camp as well. But for most people, it will have just made the decision what it appears to be for the entire country – obviously tighter than last time.

What has become clearer is there is certainly a strong and deep mistrust of the Administration, and no great enthusiasm for it. But, in essence, Romney/Ryan need to convince people that they could do better. That’s the whole game, right there. At the moment they seem to be just short of that goal to this watcher, but certainly further on than they were. A lot will depend on the next two Presidential debates, and, as I have opined previously, how the Obama camp nails – or doesn’t nail – what I consider to be the obvious holes in the Romney/Ryan tax plan.

For example, Ryan asserted confidently that the Romney tax cuts could be implemented without touching middle class welfare allowances like mortgage relief. Biden huffed that it was mathematically impossible. Later, the bi-partisan Tax Policy Centre delivered their verdict. “Not possible.” So expect to see that hammered again and again in the next couple of weeks.

The other issue will be how the “vouchers not Medicare” issue plays in Florida.

Florida. Keep your eyes on Florida. As I keep saying, it is where the Obama campaign will focus their anti-voucher campaign but it will be much more than some TV ads. I suspect we are about to see a classic case of grassroots campaigning affecting the overall result. Either they will beat Romney there, on the ground, or they will not. And if they don’t, Romney just – just – stands a chance.

Certainly not a bad night for either camp. Just not especially good for either, either.

One side note. Well, two.

I was fascinated to see Fox News split their screen with camera angles that made it look – erroneously – as if Biden and Ryan were not looking at each other courteously. The effect was to make Biden look excessively dismissive – bad for Biden – and surely can only have been deliberate. CNN instead used head on cameras. It really does make one wonder.

Second, Obama has conceded publicly he got the first debate wrong.

In a radio interview with nationally-syndicated Tom Joyner on Tuesday he remarked as follows:

“I think it’s fair to say I was just too polite, because, you know, it’s hard to sometimes just keep on saying and what you’re saying isn’t true,” the president said, when asked what happened at the debate.

“It gets repetitive. But, you know, the good news is, is that’s just the first one. Governor Romney put forward a whole bunch of stuff that either involved him running away from positions that he had taken, or doubling down on things like Medicare vouchers that are going to hurt him long term.”

Questioned on why he “had the open shot and … didn’t take it” in last week’s debate, the president said “I understand, but you know, what happens though is that when people lose one game, you know, this is a long haul. I think it’s fair to say that we will see a little more activity at the next one,” he said.

“But keep in mind that, you know, the issues that are at stake for folks haven’t changed. You know? We’ve got millions of people who’ve got health care right now because of our health care bill. And they won’t have it if Mitt Romney is elected president.”

The president also protested the idea that he had the election locked down going into the debate.

“This is always going to be a close race,” he said. “Governor Romney kept on making mistakes month after month so it made it look artificially like this was, might end up being a cakewalk. But we understood internally that it never would be. That it was going to tight – it tightened over the last three or four days, but it could have tightened after the convention if they hadn’t had such a bad convention.”

He added: “By next week I think a lot of the hand-wringing will be complete because we’re going to go ahead and win this thing.”

We will see. Obama needs a real triumph in the next debate to recapture momentum. One telling moment will do it. We know that from past debates. Aides will be holding their breath. Whatever happens, expect a much more combative performance from Obama.

The gloves are off.

 

Poll: Obama widens lead over Romney despite weaker jobs data – see the end of this article for 17 Sept update confirming trend is in Obama’s favour.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in Ashland today

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in Ashland today. I think Ryan looks too young to run. Oh, sorry, my bad. (Photo credit: tvnewsbadge)

As predicted in the pages of Wellthisiswhatithink a few days ago, Obama has done better out of the conference season than Romney. The scheduling of the Democrat convention immediately after the Republican one may come to be seen as a strategic masterstroke when the experts parse the result of a Democrat win in November.

The President widened his narrow lead over Republican U.S. presidential challenger Mitt Romney in a new Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Saturday.

The latest daily tracking poll showed Obama with a lead of 4 percentage points over Romney. Forty-seven percent of 1,457 likely voters surveyed online over the previous four days said they would vote for Obama if the November 6 elections were held today, compared with 43 percent for Romney.

“The bump is actually happening. I know there was some debate whether it would happen, but it’s here,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark, referring to the “bounce” in support that many presidential candidates enjoy after nominating conventions.

Obama had leapfrogged Romney in the daily tracking poll on Friday with a lead of 46 percent to 44 percent.

The president’s lead comes despite a somewhat mixed reaction to his convention speech on Thursday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Friday’s government data showing that jobs growth slowed sharply last month.

Obama’s lead over Romney is comparable to Romney’s former lead over the president after the Republican National Convention finished last week, Clark said.

“We don’t have another convention now to turn our attention to, so (Obama’s bounce) may maintain,” Clark said. “How big it’ll be and how long it will last remains to be seen.”

I am frankly surprised that the candidates aren’t closer this week, and in my opinion, as I explained the other day, the bounce will become slightly more pronounced next week, as this week’s averaged polls drop off polls from when Obama was in a comfortable lead.

From that point on, it is Obama’s election to lose. The difficulty for the Republicans is that the next major opportunity for them to draw blood is the debates, and these will almost certainly favour Obama, as, regardless of one’s political bias, he is clearly a stronger candidate than Romney – more charismatic, more likeable, and despite the mixed scorecard for the first term of his Presidency, appearing more capable. This is born out when one analyses the poll’s investigation of specific qualities of the two candidates.

Obama increased his lead over Romney in certain favorable characteristics. Asked who was more “eloquent,” 50 percent of the 1,720 registered voters questioned in the poll favored Obama, compared to 25 percent for Romney. Asked about being “smart enough for the job,” 46 percent sided with Obama compared to 37 percent for Romney.

In fact, Obama led Romney in a dozen such favorable characteristics, such as “represents America” or “has the right values.”

The only such category in which Romney had an advantage was being “a man of faith,” as 44 percent picked Romney, who is Mormon, compared to 31 percent for Obama, who is Christian, but who is dogged by rumours spread by his opponents, completely unfounded, that he secretly a Muslim.

The Democratic National Convention itself received a rather muted response in the poll. Of those registered voters who had heard, seen or read at least something about it, 41 percent rated it as “average” and 29 percent as “good.”

The Republican National Convention that wrapped up August 30 in Tampa, Florida similarly was rated slightly worse: “average” by 38 percent and “good” by 27 percent in Saturday’s polling results. Although these two results seem “nip and tuck”, this is actually further evidence of a setback for the republicans, who needed to attract a couple of percentage points from the very small group of “undecideds” in order to be competitive.

This election is close, but barring a disaster, should be won by Obama with a reasonable margin. As Harold Wilson said, however, “a week is a long time in politics”. That makes nearly two months a veritable aeon, in a world where the effect of banana skins are amplified tenfold by the voracity of the media.

In any two horse race, either can win, because one can falter or fall. But as we speak, Obama looks like he is a few furlongs from home with a handy lead.

Material sourced from Reuters. The precision of the Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

UPDATE 17 SEPTEMBER 2012 10.50PM AEST

As predicted – almost to the day – by this column, Obama’s bounce has solidified in key battleground states this week. Here is the data:

As the Monitor’s Liz Marlantes reported last Friday, Obama’s post-convention bounce apparently endures, most significantly in key battleground states.

According to a new set of NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls, Obama is now leading Romney by 7 points in Ohio and 5 points in Florida and Virginia, and the RealClearPolitics polling average right now has Obama up by 4.2 percentage points in Ohio, 1.3 points in Florida, and 0.4 points in Virginia.

(Note, if Romney does not win Florida then he needs a clean sweep of all the other battleground states to beat Obama – highly unlikely.)

A Philadelphia Inquirer poll released Saturday has Obama leading Romney in Pennsylvania, 50 percent to 39 percent, reports Politico.

“Pennsylvania Democrats are more consolidated behind Obama, with 77 percent in favor of Obama and 13 percent in favor of Romney, while Republicans are 18 percent in favor of Obama and 71 percent in favor of Romney,” according to the poll press release.

“Following the conventions, Obama’s favorability rating has increased by 3 points, while his unfavorable rating has decreased by 6 points. Opinions of Romney have improved slightly following the conventions, but he still has a net negative personal popularity rating among voters in state, with 46 percent favorable/48 percent unfavorable rating.”

Politico also reports on an internal Republican poll that has Romney behind by 4 points in Ohio, not as bad as his 7-point deficit in the NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls but behind in the key battleground state nonetheless.

“The numbers underline Romney’s longstanding problems in Ohio, where he’s taken a beating from Obama’s campaign and liberal groups,” writes Politico’s Jonathan Martin.

“But it’s actually a sign of the depth of Romney’s hole in the state that the results were greeted favorably by Republicans. Polling in Ohio before the conventions last month showed Romney with an even larger deficit, closer to double-digits.”

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll of likely voters has Obama widening his advantage to 7 points, a gap that’s been increasing since the Democratic convention. “What that really means is that Obama is in good shape,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark.

“Thursday’s online poll also found far more registered voters preferred the incumbent’s policies and approach on taxes (41 percent picked Obama, 30 percent Romney), healthcare (44 percent Obama, 28 percent Romney) and Social Security (39 percent Obama, 27 percent Romney),” Reuters reported.

Obama appears to be winning in foreign affairs, too. “Asked which of the candidates had a better plan, policy or approach to the war on terrorism, more registered voters again favored Obama: 39 percent to Romney’s 25 percent.” (Note that the poll was taken two days after the attack on the US consulate in Libya.)

One sleeper poll that may have particular importance given the tension between the US and Israel over drawing a “red line” regarding Iran’s nuclear facilities: Obama has extended his lead among registered Jewish voters to 70-25 percent, according to unreleased Gallup daily tracking poll data reported by BuzzFeed.

“The data, obtained through a Democratic source, shows Obama up from leading 64-29 in polling this spring – and on par with his 2008 performance at this point when he led 69-25 over John McCain in Gallup polling,” reports BuzzFeed.