There is lots of enthusiasm in Liberal land these days - and why not? The Conservative ship appears awful leaky, if it's not sinking entirely, so confidence abounds. That's all good and I certainly don't want to do anything to put a chill on it. I do, however, want to bring a bit of a reality check about how steep the electoral mountain the Liberals are still facing and how dramatic a change is needed in the next election for the Liberals to be in power. Here's a quick and dirty exercise: Take the 2008 election results. Take every riding where the Liberals finished second (all of this information is very easy to play with thanks to Pundit Guide). Start making some assumptions. Let's say the Liberals win every riding where they finished second in 2008 and came within 8% of the winner (and hold onto every seat they currently hold and nothing else changes). The result at less than 8%: Conservative 143 (-13) 130 Liberal 77 (21) 98 NDP 37 (-4) 33 Bloc 49 (-4) 45 Independent 2 (0) 2 Not quite as good as the 2006 results. Expand that to ridings where the Liberals were within 10% of the winner: Conservative 143 (-18) 125 Liberal 77 (30) 106 NDP 37 (-6) 31 Bloc 49 (-5) 44 Independent 2 (0) 2 Getting closer, but still a 19 seat Tory minority government. And remember, this is with the Liberals winning EVERY seat where they came within 10% and everything else staying the same. The Liberals don't take the lead until you assume that the Liberals win every single seat where they finished within 13% of the winner in 2008: Conservative 143 (-27) 116 Liberal 77 (40) 117 NDP 37 (-6) 31 Bloc 49 (-7) 42 Independent 2 (0) 2 A 12% leap in a riding within a single election is a huge - though achievable - feat. Of the 40 seats the Liberals pick up in the "winning scenario" above (ie - every seat within 13%), the breakdown by province is: Ontario - 21 Quebec - 9 British Columbia - 3 New Brunswick - 3 Manitoba - 1 PEI - 1 Nova Scotia - 1 Nunavut - 1 On Quebec, for all the talk of a Liberal breakthrough under Michael Ignatieff, while the possibility is there, the Liberal Party only finished second within 20% - twenty percent means you weren't close - in 11 Quebec ridings. Total. And only one of those comes from the Conservatives. As you can see above, nine of those 11 ridings are "in play" - and are critical to take power - it can't happen without those nine seats. That having been said, short of the Bloc vote absolutely cratering, there just aren't that many Quebec seats in play for the Liberals this election (within two elections, that may be a different story). No, the Liberals path back to power is really mostly in Ontario. Now obviously the assumptions here - that everything else stays the same, that the most likely pick-ups in the next election are necessarily the same as in 2008, etc. - are silly and thus if I was actually putting together a targeted riding list, this would only be the first step of that process. It does show how large the challenge facing Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal party is, however. Large but certainly achievable.
Just give Harper a few more months like the last two and everything is possible.