Morale Has, Quite Likely, Improved

Late last Thursday / early last Friday, I posted about the Newfoundland & Labrador PC's sweeping 3 by-elections.

I speculated that the PCs were the odds-on favourite to win the 4th by-election, held this evening. I also said that the Libs could do better in tonight's race.

Did they ever.

As tonight's results have it, the Tories have just barely held on to the Humber Valley district, located on the west side of the island. Subject to recounts, the PCs held on to this seat tonight by a whole heaping 12 - count 'em, 12 - votes out of 4,383 cast.

Why was this one so close? Well, like I said last time, keep in mind that this analysis comes from way far away in Toronto. But as near as I can tell, in no particular order:

1. Unlike most districts, this one was relatively close in the last general election in 2003. Whereas the PC's won almost 60% of the vote province-wide in '03, they won Humber Valley by a 52/48 margin (the NDP didn't field a candidate in the general election). So it wasn't as if the Libs were dealing with Tory strongholds, as were 2 of last week's districts.

2. Because this was a one-district night, the Libs were able to focus all of their attention on this one race. Of course, the same can be said for the Tories, so that explanation is probably a bit of a wash, at best.

3. There could very well be a whole host of local, district-only issues that I, I am ashamed to say, know nothing about (but then, NL by-elections don't exactly get lots of press in the national / Toronto media). What's more, for all I know, the Lib candidate - the same person who came in a close second in '03 - could be an excellent candidate and/or have run an excellent local campaign. I'll let more local commentators sound off on that.

4. Perhaps most importantly, the whole reason for this by-election was because the former MHA, Kathy Goudie, was personally implicated in a financial scandal, allegedly double-billing her expense claims (a police investigation is, apparently, underway).

So, put it all together and you get a victory-in-defeat moment for the NL Liberals. Whether it has any l0ng-term effect is hard to say, but after pointing out their electoral pratfall last week, their near-success should be noted as well. (Though you'll forgive me if I put my partisan hat on, and say that I hope it doesn't last!)

The real question is whether this represents, for Danny Williams and his crew, an aberration or a warning of trouble in this fall's scheduled election. For that, I'll have to cop out and say "wait and see" - but if the Tories needed a reminder not to rest on their laurels, this will hopefully do the trick.

More later.

PS: It's also worth noting that voter turn-out was significantly higher this evening in Humber Valley than it was in last week's races.


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