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B.C. Premier Christy Clark talks to the media before the May 14 election campaign’s lone televised leaders’ debate. (B.C. Liberal Party)
B.C. Premier Christy Clark talks to the media before the May 14 election campaign’s lone televised leaders’ debate. (B.C. Liberal Party)

Anatomy of a comeback: How Christy Clark beat the odds Add to ...

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Ms. Clark was a machine. She had her organizers carve out 60 minutes every day for a workout, which she felt would give her more energy. As she was stumping in as many as seven places a day, Mr. Dix sometimes made only two or three stops.

She says she didn’t touch a drop of alcohol for all 28 days of the campaign, both to conserve strength and as a sign of discipline. She also hammered the same message every day, which Mr. Dix admits he failed to do.

It was Don Guy’s task to ensure she didn’t get bored and deviate from the central theme – “It’s about the economy” – posted on the war-room wall. “Every day a new set of voters pays attention for the first time,” he says. “And Christy totally embraced that. I don’t think I ever saw anyone have a better time campaigning.”

On the bus, Brad Bennett turned out to be an important sounding board. He would listen to Ms. Clark’s pitch at stop after stop, and look for signs in the crowd of what was resonating and what was not. If required, the message was tweaked.

Every morning on the road began with a call to the war room to discuss the day ahead – and the day before. “I’d start the meeting by asking: ‘Did we win the day?’” Ms. Clark says. “And most of the time, they’d say: ‘Yes, we won the day.’ And then I’d say: ‘And tomorrow we’re waking up and the score is 0-0.’”

She never asked for daily poll numbers, but good news on that front usually got to her. Dimitri Pantazopoulos lived for those numbers. His day typically started with a 4:30 a.m. review of the overnight tracking numbers.

As each day passed, those numbers told a story quite contrary to that of the big-name public pollsters. The disparity between his phone surveys and theirs done on the Internet caused him many sleepless nights, especially in the closing days of the campaign.

“Ipsos is a $100-million-plus company, Angus Reid is the grandfather of polling in Canada,” he says. “I’m not that arrogant to think I’m right and everybody else is wrong. But then you look at the data and say: Either they’re making a systemic error or I am.”

By the end his numbers were so good that two days before the vote, Mike McDonald sent an update to campaign directors across the province, a four-page memo entitled The Road to Victory that set out why the party could win – and called on them to get out the vote.

On the last day, Ms. Clark made nine appearances, while Mr. Dix – alerted to the danger by his own polls and what his candidates were hearing – made a desperate, 24-hour mad dash around the province. It was too little, too late. He had simply been outworked and out-strategized.

The next night, the Premier and her team assembled in two sprawling suites at the Sheraton. Although confident, she knew that crazy things happen in politics, especially in B.C.

But within an hour of the polls’ closing, the outcome was obvious. At 9:05 p.m., CTV-BC called a Liberal win and soon afterward a Liberal majority.

Other networks didn’t make a call until much later, as if they didn’t believe what they were seeing.

Up in her room, Christy Clark sat in jeans and a T-shirt watching the returns with Hamish, her 11-year-old son, and ex-husband Mark Marissen, a highly regarded political strategist who had helped on the campaign. The smile never left her face.

After a congratulatory call from Mr. Dix, she prepared to head downstairs for her speech. But first she told her son he could miss school in the morning.

“No way,” Hamish replied. “I’m going, so I can tell all those boys who were making fun of me, saying you were going to lose, that they were wrong.

“You won, Mom. You won.”

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