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Elmwood strategy

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Two smart people on opposite sides of the spectrum have been kibitzing to me lately about the stranglehold Doer's NDP have on the province's political culture, and how that will only change if people THINK it can change.

People assume (and the media perpetuates the idea, say critics) that the NDP are invulnerable, that they'll never get defeated in dozens of ridings, that Doer's personal popularity will never wane and the NDP will emerge unscathed from every mini-scandal like Crocus and Brian Sinclair. Something needs to dent that perception if any opposition party is to have a chance or if the province's stagnant political culture is ever to change.

That's an interesting idea. Let's apply it to the Elmwood byelection.

Some argue that NDP statesman Bill Blaikie needs to clean up in Elmwood the same way former MLA Jim Maloway always did: 62 per cent of the vote. Anything less means he didn't live up to the hype and exposes the Doer dynasty to rumblings that it's slipping.

If that's the case, it makes sense for the Tories to dial down their campaign. Liberal candidate Regan Wolfrom is running hard -- lots of signs, frequent musings on the Disraeli bridge, some name recognition thanks to the Kelvin fight --early out of the gate.

The Tories don't have a campaign office in the riding and are running a young, bright but unknown candidate and they'll probably come third. Why not run a totally scaled-back campaign that does NOT involve calling the Freep on the weekend to get some press on Disraeli and instead quietly allows support to trickle down to Wolfrom? The Tories aren't going to win anyway, and there may be more long-term value in taking a star NDP candidate down a notch.

The flipside to that argument is that two reasonably strong campaigns needling Blaikie and the NDP for being stale and tired is better than one.

All this is the typical over-analysis that politicos do on every election. It kind of has nothing to do with how real voters feel or what compels them to vote for a candidate -- all 23 of them who will actually vote in any of the gaggle of by-elections now underway.

But I think a lot of people will be eyeballing the margin of victory in Elmwood. If the famed NDP e-day machine doesn't bulldoze over the other two candidates, I wonder whether the slow, centrist momentum that has kept the NDP in power for a decade will start to wane.

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