WELLS: A year's polling shows an extraordinarily stable electorate

A year’s polling shows an extraordinarily stable electorate. The Conservatives seem better positioned now than in January, especially because the Liberals have lost ground in places where they would rather not lose (Ontario, Quebec) and gained in places where gains don’t translate into many seats (the Atlantic provinces) or any (Alberta). Remember the orange line the next time Brian Topp writes 1,200 words about his leader’s momentum. Stephen Harper cannot win a majority, unless he gains as much during the 2011 (or 2012) writ period as he did in 2004, 2006 and 2008. So maybe he can win a majority.

Anyway, speculating too much about the causes and potential outcomes of these nearly-straight lines misses the reality that the lines are nearly straight. Michael Ignatieff went on a bus tour and it didn’t really change his standing. (Bus tour was probably still worth doing; leader and staff have far more experience in campaign-like environments now.) How many columns were written about the tactical (as opposed to the public-policy) folly of Harper’s long-form census fight? It is hard to spot the folly in the year’s lines. Olympic bump for the government? Nope. Erosion of public trust caused by prorogation? Nope.

More and more Liberals think they will never get a perfect moment, so they might as well have an election sooner rather than later. Maybe in 10 weeks. But the more lucid Liberals remember they can’t “pull the trigger” on an election, because they need Layton, whose bravado typically lasts until the minute it might actually mean an election.

I think an election in 2012 is as likely as one this spring, maybe more. Meanwhile the trench warfare continues. Somebody could do something bold, but apparently that’s out of fashion.

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