Sunday, May 5, 2013

Greatest Election Chokes

I was having a discussion this weekend regarding sports chokers, and it came to me also that there have been a number of election chokers as well.

I'm not talking about a political party implementing an unpopular policy, which causes them to be voted out, I'm talking about election campaigns.  If a party was so far ahead on polls in a campaign that they seemingly lost from nowhere.

I came up with five that I am familiar with, but I'm sure there are others, especially in Europe or Asia.

I'm going to start with some honourable disqualifications: Morgan Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe, 2008,  Mir-Hossein Mousavi in Iran, 2009 or any other elections where the upset candidate actually won except for electoral fraud and vote rigging.  In these instances to Robert Mugabe and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Without any further ado - here is the list:

5) Australia State elections - don't call a snap!

Jeff Kennett had been premier in Victoria for two terms, after inheriting a near bankrupt state.  He built everything and anything to turn the state into a thriving region.  He had fearlessly faced off against unions to ensure major events like the Grand Prix took place.  In 1999, the Labor party changed its leader to the little known Stev Bracks, and Kennett could not resist the urge to call a snap election.  His campaign consisted of pictures of him smiling with "", and little else.  The public punished him at the poll, installing a government with balance of power held by 3 independents, who couldn't hide their glee in dumping him.  On the whole, the most arrogant campaign and forcing an election on a public who punished him for it.

Honourable mention to WA Premier Alan Carpenter, who called a snap election in 2008 when the Liberals leader resigned in disgrace.  He lost to the newly appointed Colin Barnett

4)  When Polls don't work

In the 1948 US Presidential election, the polls leading up to the election were so convincing that Republican Thomas Dewey would win, that people stopped taking notice.  In the meantime Harry S. Truman continued to campaign, and the polls showing the gap narrowing were ignored.  When the results were counted, Truman lead early and never relented.

The papers were so confident of a Dewey win, they printed the headline before the results were counted.

3) Once tagged as a loser ..

Shimon Peres was a long time Israeli Leader.  He was seen as a peacemaker and a diplomat, and was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1994.  Peace and Security is always the top issue at Israeli elections.  However every election Peres contested as leader he lost.  Once the people saw him as a loser, it seemed his support continued to slip away, even in the face of more marginal opponents such as Netanyahu and Sharon.  He did hold the Prime Ministers office when Rabin was assassinated, but now he holds the unelected figurehead Presidential position.

2) Small targets 

In the midst of "the recession we had to have", Paul Keating was very unpopular as Prime Minister.  The 1993 Australian Federal election was the chance to change things, and Liberal leader and Economist John Hewson thought he could change things by relying on a GST.  Unfortunately he couldn't explain it very well.  One 90 second rambling description left the whole country confused and open the door for Keating to be re-elected.  This lead to a term of "Small Targets".  If you are leading in the polls, then don't introduce anything major that is likely to make you a target for your opponent.  This term is still used today.

 1) The danger of arrogance

In the US Presidential Campaign, Al Gore was so far ahead against George Bush, it was almost a certainty that he would win.  Then came the Presidential debates.  Al Gore was supposedly the "Master Debater", and George W. Bush was not heralded as being smart, yet Bush made Gore look insincere and wishy washy.  Then the Gore Campaign went right off the rails, with policies the Bush campaign could make out as supporting "Big Government".  The election was almost too close to call with only a few votes in Florida separating the two.  What difference Gore would have had in the White House during the 9/11 attacks the following year, we can only guess.

Well, that's my list.  What have I missed?
If Tony Abbott misses out in September 2013, then he should definitely be added!

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