"...they've missed the biggest political story in the province---the stark panic in the NDP government."
That's what we wrote one month ago when we sifted through the results of two federal byelections in Manitoba---and uncovered the story that all the pundits had overlooked as they gushed about Justin Trudeau (despite his failure to win the seats for the Liberals).
Probe Research and the Winnipeg Free Press finally put some meat on the bones of the story last week with a new poll showing the NDP a devastating 22 percentage points behind the Progressive Conservatives in voter preference.
We took the weekend to swim through the numbers to dig out still more angles to the story.
* the NDP have lost their last bastion of support---voters with incomes of less than $30,000.
In the last Probe election poll six months ago, the NDP had a clear advantage with low-income voters, pulling 44 percent of their support to the Tories' 33 percent. No more.
Today, the Dippers can barely count on 22 percent of the low-income electorate. The Tories? 41 percent. A rise in the sales tax, not to mention higher electricity and heating costs, hits the poorer folk first and hardest. Who knew?
NDP MLA's have been making almost daily announcements of millions of dollars being spent on this and that, and every time the MLA stands behind or beside a podium bearing the message Focused on What Matters Most. Obviously there's a huge disconnect between what matters most for most people and what matters for the NDP and the unions who feast on the spending.
The only income category where NDP support went up (4 percentage points) is upper-middle ($60,000 to $99,000), where you find the civil servants, teachers, and others with government jobs. Still, the PC's are far ahead there too with 46 percent support to the NDP's 30.
* the Liberal Party has a pulse for the first time in 13 years with a provincial support level of 20 percent.
The rise of the Liberals out of the mid-teens (where they were most of the past decade) and pre-teens (where they wound up in the last election) corresponds with a sharp drop in support for the Green Party.
A six-point drop in men 55-plus supporting the Tories and an equal boost in Liberal support is odd. A seven-point drop in women 55-plus and a six percentage point increase in mature women supporting the Liberals is too.
The last time the Manitoba Liberal Party had support in the heady twenties was in the 1995 provincial election (the one after the Liberals soared into Official Opposition). The Conservatives won the '95 vote with 31 seats, the NDP took 23 and Libs 7. The Tories took 43 percent of the votes, NDP 33 percent and Liberals 24 percent.
* 22 percent of Manitobans were undecided or refused to say which party they would support in the Probe poll. That's up significantly from the 13 percent who passed in June.
We're betting this is NDP voters who don't know which way to fall. They've jumped off the NDP train, but haven't decided yet whether to sit the next election out or to park their vote with the Liberals--or Other.
Greg Selinger, the dirtiest politician in Manitoba, has managed to unite the young and the old, the poor and the middle class, the richest and the poorest, the best educated and the worst, in solidarity --- against the New Democratic Party he leads.
That's some legacy.