Can Larry Smith win his riding?

It seems to be a question a lot of people are asking, whether on this site or elsewhere. The Conservatives were very happy to recruit this high profile candidate in order to get more votes in Montreal West, a region that is Liberal to death. But can Larry Smith really win the riding of Lac-Saint-Louis? Let's look into it.

First of all, here are the results of the 2008 elections.

CPC: 23.5%
LPC: 46.4%
NDP: 15.8%
Green: 8.6%
Bloc: 5.8%

By the way, you won't find a lot of ridings in Quebec where the Bloc is 5th and last! So this riding seems like a safe liberal seat. But let's look at the current projections. Since the last election, the polls indicate some important swings. In particular, the CPC had decreased from 21.7% provincially to 20.6%. The drop for the Liberals is bigger, moving from 23.8% to 18.7%. As for the other parties, the NDP is up, Green as well and the Bloc slightly up. But it's not really relevant for this riding since the game is played between the Liberals and the Tories.

So with the current votes intentions, we have the following projections:

CPC: 23%
LPC: 42.7%
NDP: 17.9%
Green: 9.3%
Bloc: 7.1%

It requires a little bit more explanations. My model is there to translate the provincial swing into riding-level swings, taking into account the region, incumbency effect and other variables. So, maybe a better way to see if the Conservatives can indeed win this seat is to look at what happens when the CPC and LPC experience a 1-point swing provincially. Here how a 1-point swing translates in this riding.

CPC: 0.18
LPC: 0.62

So in both cases, the swing is decreased in this riding. It means the Liberals can lose some votes provincially and still be safe there. For the CPC' it's a bad news as it indicates that, if past results are of any indications, even a big provincial swing wouldn't help. So what chances are left? Three solutions:

1) The historical trend about the link between the provincial swing and the swing in this riding doesn't apply any more. I don't like this solution cause it goes completely against the model.

2) A Within-province swing, i.e: even though the Conservatives remain constant around 20%, there is a shift within Quebec. In other words, this party loses some voters in some ridings but is gaining voters in others. We couldn't see such a trend with province-level polls of course. This explanation is possible, in particular we could imagine that Harper was successfull if getting more votes from the anglophone community in Quebec. But to what extent? I don't know. In 2008, in the region of Montreal West, the Tories got 18.18% (thus below the provincial average) and the Liberals got 45.3%. Thus you need a big within-province shift.

3) A star-candidate effect. Larry Smith is well known and he will likely beneficiate from some kind of boost, independently of what happens to his party province-wide. However, the boost would need to be pretty big for him to win. We are talking a boost of 10-points, taken from the Liberals. For a non-cabinet minister, non-leader of a party, that is pretty big.

So at the end, the short answer to the question of this post is no. If he wins, that would be a big surprise. My guess is that Harper is more playing long-term in Montreal West: he wants to be the choice of the English-speaking community in Quebec. While it will likely not be the case yet this time, this strategy might pay off in a couple of years.

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