Election 2012 Begins – A real race is expected.

As expected Premier Alison Redford visited the Lieutenant-Governor’s office today and started Alberta’s 2012 general election. She waited until the Alberta legislature passed the budget to get the campaign started in an effort to reinforce the party image as stable competent managers. The strategy seemed sound: pass a fair and prudent budget, move forward on key legislation and keep Danielle Smith on the sidelines. The risk, of course, is that you provide a forum for the opposition parties to air their grievances on a daily basis. If a narrative emerges and gains traction, then you are stuck in the house responding to an agenda advanced by the opposition parties. Unfortunately a narrative emerged: the Tories are bullies and have abused the reins of power for too long. This narrative was largely advanced by the Liberals and will serve the Wildrose party well.

Recent polls bear witness to this critical mistake on election timing. Prior to the spring session the PCs had a comfortable 10-15 point lead, but two polls released on the day the election started show the race is much closer.

A CTV-Forum research poll puts the PCs ahead only three points over the Wildrose province wide (36-33) amongst decided voters. Even worse, a Global-Ipsos poll puts the parties in a complete tie (38-38). With a strong Tory lead in Edmonton, both polls demonstrate that Wildrose is ahead in Calgary and rural Alberta.

Now I am watching the polls closely and have developed a little seat projection tool that I hope will serve me well throughout the campaign. According to my projections, a vote held today would yield 51 seats for the PCs, 27 for the Wildrose, 6 seats for the NDP and 3 seats for the Liberals. (My pre-session projections were 65-12-5-5, and a few commentators said I was giving too much credit to the opposition).

Polls aside, 28 days can be an eternity in politics and a vigorous campaign will undoubtedly emerge. Redford strategist Stephen Carter is known to use the full length of the campaign period quite effectively, so the story on April 22nd will be quite different from the story today. I hope to write to you dear reader on a daily basis until then. I hope you will enjoy it and share your thoughts.

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