Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ignatieff's NDP Strategy

Today, Ignatieff and Layton are campaigning in Ontario and the Globe and Mail has an article on how the former isn't attacking the latter. This is despite Layton going after Ignatieff during the debates and in an "Not So Great Canadian Moments" ad {below} on his voting record. I get this. It's how the NDP gets street cred.

I do think it makes perfect sense for Ignatieff to not attack Layton. There's the talk that the NDP support is soft, so attacking might be wasted effort. Come May 2nd., the votes may come to the Liberals anyway. I think more important is the relatively close positioning of the two parties. Slamming Layton could backfire, since the perception is that the NDP is the alternative. A hard sell approach might cause Dipper supporters to dig in more and give more fodder for the upstart positioning of the NDP. Moreover, looking at EKOS second choice data also points to the fact that attacking the NDP might be a bad move.

The diagram to the left shows that there's 7.7% of the vote that represents NDP supporters considering the Liberals a second choice. On the other hand, 12.4% of voters represent Liberal supporters considering the NDP to be a second choice. These numbers have not been volatile, but are national numbers without a regional breakdown. Both the Liberals and the NDP have overlap with the Conservatives through second choices at 6.0 and 7.1%, respectively. Attacking the Conservatives to wrestle away 6% from them makes more sense than the risky move of trying to get 7% converts from the NDP.

It's a classic market positioning problem. The Liberal platform has shifted left, but I agree with Ignatieff that the party nevertheless occupies the progressive centre. Shifting to the right would have made zero sense, ideologically or strategically. Even if the electorate bought the platform, they would wonder, why change horses? Yes, the NDP and Liberals will cannibalize each others' votes, but the Liberals are able to differentiate themselves from the Conservatives and have a limited vulnerability from the NDP. 

Layton and the NDP get traction by being the alternative party, along the lines of the Lib Dems in last year's UK election. Unlike the Lib Dems, I don't see a NDP-CPC coalition happening any time soon. I still think the Conservatives have weaknesses and are likely to be very worried of the electorate turning on them. The regional volatility should also concern the Conservatives, although they might have data that pinpoints the sources.

Here are the two NDP ads aimed at the Liberals::

Twitterversion:: [blog+videos] Thoughts on #NDP attacking Ignatieff & how the latter is wise to continue to not retaliate. @Prof_K

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