Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday October 9, 2019
Can Jagmeet Singh build on debate-night momentum? It’ll be difficult, experts say
Experts say Jagmeet Singh, of all the federal party leaders, came out on top after Monday’s official English-language debate, but they caution it’ll be difficult for the NDP leader to turn that momentum into votes.
Doing so would involve breaking a campaign narrative established over the last month that paints the 2019 federal election race as a neck-and-neck battle between the Liberals and the Conservatives, according to McGill professor Daniel Béland.
“The challenge is that it’s widely perceived — and it’s true — that it’s a race between two parties, and it’s also a debate about who should not be the next prime minister,” said Béland.
Monday night’s event was the first and only English debate featuring all six federal party leaders in the 2019 election campaign.
Singh went into the evening “relatively unknown” to many of the Canadians watching and he made “an excellent first impression,” according to Anne McGrath, a longtime senior NDP staffer and now public affairs associate at Hill+Knowlton.
In what turned out to be a chaotic and time-crunched debate, experts agree Singh stood out during those two hours for his positive messaging and a few choice zingers.
Throughout the debate, Ipsos measured Twitter sentiment and volume regarding the party leaders, parties and issues exclusively for Global News.
According to the measurements of attitudes towards the leaders, Singh started strong and was the only leader to finish the night with a “net positive rating,” the results showed.
The question now is whether and how Singh can make that strong performance benefit his party — which has remained a distant third in the polls so far — in the lead up to Election Day.
A debate performance can end up meaning nothing or everything to an election campaign, according to Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs.
“What typically happens is what we see on the debate and then what everybody says happened afterwards. And it’s the ‘what-everybody-says-afterwards’ that tends to have a bigger impact,” Bricker said. “We’ll know later in the week when we start seeing polling results coming out whether or not he’s actually moving ballots.”
Nelson Wiseman, professor of political science at the University of Toronto, said he thinks that it’s “unlikely” Singh’s performance will move the needle significantly but he likely accomplished “cementing” support among New Democrats who may have been “wavering.”
While Singh is far behind the Liberals and Conservatives, Béland noted the NDP has pushed ahead of the Green Party in the polls in some provinces, which wasn’t the case just a month ago. Re-establishing a solid third-place standing is “an important thing” for the party, Béland argued.
“The NDP should emphasize the fact that if there’s a minority government, the NDP might have the balance of power and that’s something really important,” he said. (Global News)