The election campaign at this still fairly early stage with two months to go has seen quite a few interesting revelations and one debate so far, but the polls have barely moved. The NDP are holding strong at about 33 or 34%, the Conservatives have fallen back a few points to be around 29% and the Liberals have made gains on those loses and are now at 28%. There is no doubt that this is going to be a very close race, but is there potential for a break? For one party to surge ahead toward the finish line?
The Conservatives have the most to worry about at this point. With their current polling being at the very low end of their base of support, they are going to hope that people will forget about the Duffy trial once it goes into recess, and that they can somehow squeeze out victories in the new gerrymandered ridings and through vote splitting in close races enough that they can come out on top with a minority. But they are not in the same position they were back in 2011, where they enjoyed on the regular about 38% support, and they are not in the lead in any region except for the prairies at the moment. It would take quite a bit of luck and wishful thinking with these kinds of numbers for the Conservatives to win a plurality of seats, but its not entirely out of reach. It all depends on if they can get their base out, but because of the increasing weight of scandal on the government, their ability to do so at this point may be in question.
The NDP are in a good position, but have yet to break the solid and slowly growing Liberal support that is keeping them from surging toward majority territory. What the NDP are likely hoping to do is to maintain their lead, but also to try and dip into that 28% Liberal support by offering themselves up as the true alternative to the Conservatives, and hoping that soft Liberal supporters will flock to them if they see them as the best shot to beat Harper. Their support in Quebec is solid, but if they want to form government, they are going to have to start campaigning hard in Ontario, where there is the largest number of close races, and where the NDP have the opportunity to snatch seats from the Conservatives and the Liberals. The biggest risk that the NDP have is that like the Liberals, their support is soft, and those voters are just as likely to go Liberal if the race starts to shift in that direction. They have to ensure that they hold on to those soft voters, and add to them.
The Liberals are the party with the most to gain. They may soon eclipse the Conservatives in the polls, taking some disaffected former Harper voters who really just don't want to see the NDP in government, If this happens we will start to see a very different race. I think this situation will be most prominent in Ontario, where the Liberals could stand to pick up quite a few seats currently held by Conservatives. If I were Justin Trudeau's adviser, I would tell him to stay the course, and push hard in Ontario, Alberta and BC, because Quebec is not going to move in his favour, and their greatest chance for gains is in Alberta and Ontario. Being in third place at this point might be a good thing, because they won't be on the defensive like the NDP currently are. What they want to try and stop at all costs is an NDP break, where they lose voters who are going to vote for whoever looks most likely to beat Harper.
We probably won't have a very good idea of what the final polls might look like until Thanksgiving, and this campaign won't really heat up until after Labour Day. If one party were to surge ahead and another to collapse, it won't happen for some time still. If I were to speculate, the party most likely to collapse is the Conservatives, and most of their voters would probably go Liberal, some NDP in certain ridings, or just not show up. The party most likely to surge is the NDP, but only if the Liberals collapse. Its simply too difficult to predict at this point, but this is an election that is certainly not going to be short on excitement, and we may see some dramatic swings yet.