I’m not the underdog!

Noting Howard’s prediction of victory, Ken Parish observes

It’s a little surprising really, because you would normally expect both leaders to be still trying to position themselves as underdog at this stage.

but takes the prediction, and Howard’s confident demeanour, as a sign of real confidence, presumably reflecting Liberal polling.

My inclination is to go the other way. After a week or so in which everyone was commenting on how rattled he was (I noted on September 30 that he looked like a beaten man, Howard had to (over) compensate. I suspect that, if he really had good news from the pollsters in his back pocket, he could have managed to look confident while saying it was too close too call (see Peter Beattie for a lesson on how to do this when you are an unbackable favorite). It’s easier to fake confidence if you’re saying confident things.

One thing I find hard to figure out is the impact of denunciations like this one from former blogger James Morrow in the Oz, attacking Howard from the right for his belated conversion to tax-and-spend social democracy. Howard no doubt judges that people like Morrow have “nowhere else to go” and Morrow obligingly observes

, Howard and the Coalition still represent the best chance for our finances.

But he must run the risk of losing people who, unlike Morrow, dislike Howard’s policies on the war, or refugees, or Kyoto, but have been kept onside by his reputation for fiscal restraint.

10 thoughts on “I’m not the underdog!

  1. I agree John. As I noted in comments over at my place, I remember Beazley declaring he can win a few days out in ’01 to give his people hope, and my admittedly unreliable memory on Howard is that he maintained his “I’m not a commentator” routine all the way through last time. Another commenter also remembered Keating declaring he can win in ’96, precisely because it gave her a little heart at the time. I’d definitely count this as a straw in the wind against Howard.

  2. I can’t imagine why he’d say such a thing. Howard ought to be fearfull of a backlash. Predicting a win might turn a few voters who voted coalition last time but aren’t so pleased with the direction Howard has taken the country.

    Bring back Jeff Kennett..

  3. I think that current party polling indicates that it is too close to call on the numbers. So Howard is probably trying to project an aura of invicibility. This is a campaign tactic used by Rove wing of the Republican party.
    I agree with Pr Q that Howards abandonment of economic rationalism will offend his core conservative support. But knowing what a virtuso
    J W Howard is with the dog whistle it is also possible that these voters will trust JWH to abandon his abandonment.
    I still think that, on the day, the median voter will opt for Howard. Why go for Howard-lite when the real thing is on offer, with bribes to boot?

  4. Jack, your insight into the mind of the late, late undecided voter is very commendable. I think the critical question is what opinion formers do such voters follow. Just a guess, I suspect it not the media. Therefore, if so, they will be difficult to reach by advertising.

    Let us suppose they are disproportionally first time voters, and most of my prior assumptions are trashed, but then Latham’s preceived inexperience will not have the same influence with them as with some other voters. In these matters, I simply do not know. And I suppose it might make more sense to second guess the political manipulators on the assumption they know what they are doing, than to understand the undecided voters more directly.

    I imagine the opinion polls do measure the undecided vote, but perhaps because of inattention, I have not seen it recently mentioned.

  5. “Fatal zone” is defined by Dennis Shanahan, whose anti-Labor spin in his poll reporting has been entertaining (though disappointing) over the last month.

  6. In the long term, the Liberals and John Howard better not ignore their right wing. A brief autobiography should illustrate why.

    During the 70s, this then teenager believed that capitalism could be reformed to give equality. This social democrat started his drift into Marxism with the 1985 failure of the Bill of Rights. It was at that point I believed that the Hawke Labor government had abandoned social reform; rejected any form of equality; and had given a definite no to Whitlam’s idea of the equality of opportunity – “every [child] with a desk, a lamp and [their] own room to study in”.

    With that rejection, I started look for alternatives to Labor. I flirted with the Communist Party, the Democrats and the big mistake, the un-Democratic Socialists. I have settled with the Greens for the past 8 years. However, I am still not really happy with them.

    My story is not unique. Today, too many like me have ensured that the ALPs primary vote is historically low. Hawke reasoned that the left had not where else to go. In the short term, he was right. In the long term, we created our own alternative – a work still in progress.

    Howard is right – in the short term his right wing has nowhere else to go.

  7. Brief, because I’m en route to take another tute.

    Labor’s Tasmanian forests policy will be the game-breaker which shifts enough small-g green votes to win the election.

  8. John — the coalition has lost me and a few other free-market libertarians I know. One of my arguments for why free-market people should vote ALP is that the coalition will never listen to us unless we show a credible threat of not voting for them.

    The same rationale is being used by shooters in this election, running under the banner of ‘Outdoor Recreation Party’ and preferencing the ALP.

  9. Australians stress underdog status — but Americans stress “momentum”, which is the appearance of abandoning your underdog status and appearing to attract a commanding level of support at the right time. The theory being that the social persuasion effect of commanding a lead means that undedecided voters will tend to vote for you in order to be one of the crowd.

    I must say that the theory that undecided voters are vulnerable to the social persuasion effect is rather more attested to by social psychology than the idea that voters prefer to vote with the “underdog.”

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