Shane Coleman’s General Election 2020 Report Card
It’s just over a week to go to polling day and while polls show Fianna Fáil in the lead and Sinn Féin with momentum, no party or issue has really dominated the campaign so far.
The make-up of the next government is arguably more uncertain now than it was on the day the Dáil was dissolved. With only eight full days of campaigning left, here’s my assessment of where the various parties are at.
To win most seats (1/7)
Under 53.5 seats (5/6)
Over 53.5 seats (5/6)
Glass half full or glass half empty? There is no question FF is ahead in the race and on course to lead the next government.
It is winning the ground war across the 39 constituencies.
But nationally the party’s campaign, while steady, has yet to really fire.
Micheál Martin has been solid in the TV debates but without hitting the highs he did four years ago. There seems to be a desire for change among the electorate, but Sinn Féin have arguably been more successful in pitching themselves as the party to really bring that change. Expect though FF to turn its guns on SF in the coming days particularly in relation to the latter’s economic policies.
Positives: The party is in the lead and Micheál Martin is on course to be the next Taoiseach.
Negatives: If FF want to get to 60 seats or close to that, they needs to rev up they campaign in the final week.
Must avoid: Any silly mistakes.
To win most seats (9/2)
Under 42.5 seats (4/5)
Over 42.5 seats (10/11)
The odds suggest Fine Gael has a serious uphill battle ahead if it wants to lead the next government and the odds are spot on. The Fine Gael campaign hasn’t been particularly bad even though there have been setbacks with the latest coming from Catherine Noone’s ill-judged comments about the Taoiseach.
Leo Varadkar has done well in the leaders’ debates, demonstrating humility and a willingness to listen and admit to mistakes.
There’s no doubt that FG has always been targeting the last week of the campaign for its big push. It’s not going to be shy about sticking the boot into FF and Micheál Martin for past failures.
But winning three in a row was always going to be a big ask for a party that, before 2016, had never won an election coming out of government and it’s a moot point whether it won the 2016 contest. The sense is that regardless of what FG does, the electorate has made up its minds that it wants a change.
Positives: ‘It’s the economy, stupid’.
Negatives: Familiarity in politics can breed contempt.
Must avoid: Any more silly mistakes.
To win most seats (22/1)
Under 23.5 seats (5/6)
Over 23.5 seats (5/6)
The surprise package of the election so far. After a difficult couple of years and a disastrous local and euro elections last year, many people, including myself, expected the party to lose seats. There was a real fear SF would get squeezed as the election became a battle of the two prospective Taoisigh: Leo and Micheál. But that hasn’t happened.
In fact, Sinn Féin has cleverly turned that on its head with a pitch that people should look beyond the two parties – Tweedledum and Tweedledee as it, without any great originality, refers to them – that have led every government since the foundation of the state.
SF’s success at presenting itself as the real agent for change has seen them at, or close to, 20% in the polls.
They won’t be at that level come election day, but even a few points off that would be a really good day for the party.
Positives: A good campaign to date and high poll ratings.
Negatives: SF never hit their poll ratings in actual elections – why would it be different this time? There’s going to be a lot more spotlight on the party in the coming week.
Must avoid: Believing the poll hype.
Over 11.5 seats (4/5)
Under 11.5 seats (10/11)
A little like FF, solid but nothing spectacular from the Greens. Although it had a hugely successful local and euro elections last year, climate change hasn’t got much traction as a core issue in the leadership debates or in the media generally. But that doesn’t mean people at home aren’t prioritising it.
To its credit the party hasn’t gone down the road of auction politics on tax. There might not be a green surge all across the nation, but the Greens are going to have a very good election, winning a multiple of their current seat tally of two. Double figures looks very attainable.
Positives: People are tuned into Green politics like never before. A good election is guaranteed.
Negatives: A great election isn’t guaranteed.
Must avoid: Appearing too alternative.
Under 6.5 seats (5/6)
Over 6.5 seats (5/6)
Worrying times for Labour. Their campaign has been mediocre and the party have struggled to get noticed with so many other bigger players in the field. They have a real fight on their hands to hold their 7 seats.
Positives: Labour candidates traditionally are good at hanging in there and winning final seats in constituencies that looked beyond them.
Negatives: If both SF and the Greens have good elections as expected, where’s the room for Labour?
Must avoid: A repeat of the previous two weeks of the campaign – the party needs to be find its voice in the campaign and quickly.
Richard Boyd Barrett’s performance in the leaders’ debate will have given him a boost in Dun Laoghaire. But if there’s a surge to SF, the danger of Solidarity/PBP being squeezed out is very real.
Positives: Richard Boyd Barrett’s leaders’ debate performance
Negatives: The rise of SF.
Positives: Strong individual candidates.
Negatives: A struggle to be heard amidst all the bigger beasts.
*Prices correct at time of publication
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