In the wake of the devastating polling results, we heard something from NDP Dwain Lingenfelter we haven't much heard of since his return to Saskatchewan politics two years ago.
We heard a little contrition.
Monday morning at the legislature after the Leader-Post released its 802-sample Sigma Analytics poll showing the Sask. Party at 57.3 per cent compared with 29.4 per cent for the New Democrats, we heard Lingenfelter speak of the need to work smarter and do better. There was even an admission that much of the problem was his responsibility and that he would have to improve.
It left one wondering whether the numbers would have been so bad had Lingenfelter shown the same humility upon his return to Saskatchewan politics two years ago.
And make no mistake about it, the Oct. 22 to Nov. 2 newspaper poll clearly indicates that the NDP is in a mess and that much of it can be blamed on Lingenfelter's personal unpopularity.
Among those surveyed, 73.3 per cent said Wall was the leader that made the best Premier while only 16.7 per cent said that of Lingenfelter. These numbers are fascinating when contrasted with the overall numbers because they show that Wall is running about 16 percentage points ahead of his party and Lingenfelter is running 13 percentage points behind his party.
In fact, with Lingenfelter at only 16.7 per cent and the NDP at 29.4 per cent, it appears almost half of the New Democrat voters don't even really want Lingenfelter as premier.
But it's the visceral way people react to Lingenfelter that's got to be most worrisome for NDP strategists. An astonishing 60 per cent said the one person that they would not want to be premier after the next election was Dwain Lingenfelter while only 19.9 per cent responded that way about Wall.
Admittedly, it's not unprecedented to see a leader's disapproval rating this low. Even the likeable Lorne Calvert's disapproval rating was around the 60-per-cent range in April 2007, before improving those numbers in another Sigma Analytics poll taken during the October 2007 election campaign.
The difference, however, is that Calvert was at a sitting premier running a 16-year-old NDP government that clearly overstayed its welcome. To see these numbers for an Opposition leader that's only been on the job for a year and half must be truly frightening to New Democrat loyalists.
But what's really frightening is how Lingenfelter's unpopularity bleeds into just about every facet of Saskatchewan political life.
Consider the question: "Who would be best at advancing agriculture." Wall and the Sask. Party scored 60.7 per cent while Lingenfelter and the NDP scored 27.4 per cent. Sure, the Sask. Party has a lock on rural Saskatchewan, but Lingenfelter is also agriculture critic and one of the few active farmers in the legislature.
While one might expect the Sask. Party to do better at "ensuring taxes are low" (64.2 per cent, compared with 25.9 per cent for the NDP), "encouraging economic growth" (69.8 per cent, compared with 20.1 per cent for the NDP) or "reducing crime" (64.7 per cent, compared with 20.9 per cent for the NDP) one might have assumed the NDP and Lingenfelter could have closed the gap on agriculture.
What was more interesting, however, was that Lingenfelter and the NDP were behind the Sask. Party on traditional strong NDP issues like "providing health care" (47.3 per cent, Sask. Party; 41.8 per cent, NDP), "protecting the environment" (35.9 per cent, Sask Party; 21.8 per cent, NDP) and "providing good education" (51.1 per cent, Sask. Party; 35.1 per cent, NDP).
Clearly, New Democrats in a deep hole and they might not get out.
But if they have any chance of getting out, their leader needs to stop digging.