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Federal Tories leadership: It still looks like Poilievre’s race

John Cairns’ News Watch - Pierre Poilievre is leading in all the metrics that matter.
Pierre Poilievre in Regina
Pierre Poilievre was in Regina Aug. 3, continuing his push for the Conservative leadership.

REGINA — With only a month left before the votes are counted, I thought I would do another update on the Conservative leadership race.

I especially thought I would do an update since, ahem, I have finally attended some of the events here to see for myself what was going on. So now I can finally provide some real on-the-ground analysis.

One event took place way over on the east side of Regina, when the Leslyn Lewis campaign swung through. Lewis’s afternoon campaign event packed a meeting room at the Sandman Hotel and quickly took on more of a townhall format, with Lewis taking questions and offering answers. 

Going in, I was under the impression the Lewis campaign might be struggling, but my thoughts changed a bit after her Regina appearance. My belief now is that the Lewis campaign might do better than a lot of pundits think. 

After hearing her speak, I can see why Lewis is attracting support, particularly in Saskatchewan. She’s offering positions on the issues that others aren’t offering, particularly on hot-button topics like vaccine mandates and the abortion issue, and that appeals to some Conservatives. Lewis also is good on the stump. She is clearly better when she’s in a townhall-forum type of situation where the people who are asking the questions are genuinely interested in what her response might be — as opposed to “gotcha” type questions designed solely to trip a candidate up. 

This might also partially explain why Lewis decided not to participate in that official leadership debate in Ottawa. (More on that later.)

Then the following week came the return visit of the Pierre Poilievre juggernaut to Saskatchewan. This event was held in the basement of the Atlas Hotel in Regina, and didn’t look to be as big as some of the other rallies Poilievre has held. But it was probably twice as big as the audience Lewis got the previous week. It was also a much slicker production, with Poilievre sitting down with Andrew Scheer to field questions for the Facebook live-stream audience. 

Poilievre also took time to ridicule the other big production his campaign was up against that night — the official Ottawa debate that went on with Jean Charest, Scott Aitchison and Roman Baber, sitting around a table. 

Just looking at the photo from that effort, it didn’t look like it was up to much. No wonder Poilievre skipped out on it, too. 

The party cannot end this race soon enough, because it has been amateur hour at times. Poilievre himself has called the official debates a "clown show" and, based on the latest effort, it's hard to disagree. It's too bad. Honestly, I don’t know why they even went ahead with having an additional “mandatory” debate when two of the major candidates, Poilievre and Lewis, were clearly not interested in being there. You would think the organizers would have been interested in finding out if all or most of the main campaigns were on board before they held it.

It’s like having the Simpsons without Homer and Bart. Or the Rolling Stones without Jagger and Richards. 

The other gong show for the party has been the implosion of the Patrick Brown campaign over campaign violations, including allegations of having a numbered company pay campaign workers. 

Not surprisingly, Brown blamed his disqualification on the party wanting Poilievre to win. It figures. Maybe a better suggestion is for Brown to look into his own mirror at home.

As other pundits have already publicly said in print, it seems trouble follows Brown wherever he goes, whether as leader of the Ontario PCs, where he resigned over sexual misconduct allegations (which he denied), or other ethics fracases he’s had. And it hasn't stopped. Immediately after the leadership committee booted Brown out of the Conservative race, five Brampton councillors issued their own statement accusing Brown of more irregularities within the city of Brampton. It just is never ending with him.

Now, Brown has given up on the Conservative leadership and is in a re-election fight to remain mayor of Brampton. Good luck with that, and good riddance to Patrick Brown and his entire sideshow.

We turn now to the state of the race, and, in my analysis, it still looks like a Pierre Poilievre runaway — especially now that the annoying Brown is toast. It really leaves Jean Charest as Poilievre’s main rival, but Charest has an uphill fight based on what I am seeing.

If you’ll recall, I pointed out four tried-and-true measurements to watch out for when assessing who is winning or losing a leadership race, and let’s go through each of them again now, one by one:

  1. Membership sales: By all appearances Poilievre looks to be well ahead. His campaign claims to have sold 311,958 new memberships. The party itself claims there are 675,000 members eligible to vote. That would put Poilievre in first place in the membership sales if you take into account that the Brown campaign claimed to have sold 150,000. The real question is what happens now to those Brown memberships. A lot of those former Brown voters are expected to go to Charest, who holds a lot of the moderate views Brown had, but there is also a real possibility they might not vote at all.
  2. Fundraising: On this measure Poilievre's lead is even more pronounced. According to the Elections Canada second quarter numbers Poilievre had raised $4 million, compared to Jean Charest at $1.3 million. 
  3. Endorsements: Here, Poilievre is also way ahead, with 62 MP endorsements for a majority of the caucus, and prominent support from former leader Andrew Scheer and now from former prime minister Stephen Harper. Regarding the latter endorsement, I have to laugh at a recent poll that claimed Harper’s endorsement didn’t sway any support to Poilievre in the leadership race. Perhaps it’s because so many people are voting for Poilievre already. 
  4. Did I mention the crowds?

That’s four out of four, and based on what I have seen over the years of following leadership races and elections in general, your chances of losing leadership races are low when you are clearly hitting all four out of four.

There is one more factor to consider, and that is who is running the best campaign. Granted, sometimes a candidate runs the best campaign and still ends up losing, because the hill to climb is too steep. But if you’re running the best campaign and you’re ahead, it makes your campaign pretty much unstoppable.

Based on what I see there is no question Poilievre is running the best campaign, in terms of being the focus of attention from the media and from those in the party, including other candidates — including from pundits and columnists who are attacking him and claiming he is running a terrible campaign. Whether you like him or loathe him, Poilievre's policies, and what he’s doing in general, have set the tone of this race. Who hasn’t heard by now of his constant slamming of the “gatekeepers,” a word he’s used so often he’s now getting parodied.

His use of social media has been particularly brilliant. Since the last time I wrote about the race, Poilievre has come out with even more videos: of people waiting in line at passport offices, and illustrating the chaos at Pearson Airport. It’s touching a nerve with people fed up with life under the Trudeau Liberals.

At this point, the only way I see Poilievre losing this race is if he gets disqualified by the party, maybe, or something. Not likely, folks.

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