How did you think you could get elected to the Seanad?

Election 2011 - Fine Gael's Public meeting at ...

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A few people have asked me how did I think I might get elected*, since if I didn’t remotely think I could get elected then why bother running. In respect of the latter point, I happen to be of the view that contesting elections is not entirely about winning a seat but also about getting particular topics debated, in shaping the tone of that debate and in keeping the debate on track, avoiding being sidetracked into irrelevancies. Did I help in that? I hope so, did I succeed entirely? Probably not.

As for the main thrust of the question, I would have always rated my chances are more about being a possibility that a probability. And you have to to consider is that you can’t decide to run after the field is announced so running or not running isn’t really based in who else is running. In essence, if you’re not in, you can’t win. So you decide to run and only later depending on who else is running might you consider making tweaks to what your original overall plan was.

So how did I think it might be possible to get elected? And what were my targets in electoral terms? I did have other things I want to do during the course of the campaign, about getting some more detailed discussion going on what various people mean by electoral and political reform and some focus in the media on a number of topics. This post is not about that side of things. This post is about the result and the numbers side of things.

My main electoral goals at the outset consisted of breaking the four figures barrier by getting over 1,000 votes before being eliminated, to finish higher up the table than in the last election and depending on the turnout to get more than 3% of the votes before being eliminated.

The main stretch goals were to outpoll both of the other FG contenders (not out of any malice towards them, simply a competitive edge and to underline that I had something of worth to offer the organisation) and if possible to break 5% before being eliminated.

The super stretch was to actually get elected. This in a constituency were I can’t vote myself and where most of the people I know whether they went to third level or not can’t vote and in which I don’t have a natural constituency of voters who would have an easy affinity** with me that is beyond a super stretch goal.

Will I achieve those goals? Well, today will tell all!

As to how I thought I might succeed, what precisely was my perceived path to victory.

At the outset, I considered that the following conditions would need to pertain for me to be in with a shout of getting elected. I would have needed to outpoll the 2 other FG associated candidates, and for there to have been a relatively collapse in the 1st votes for both the incumbents bringing them down to say 7/8% of the first preference vote.

There would also need to occur a number of trends that would work to the advantage of the non-incumbents, a strong dresire for change and that people were transferring strongly amongst the rest of the field rather than voting for their favourites before then transferring in ever greater numbers to the candidates with the greatest name recognition which favours both of the incumbents more than anyone else.

Given the total valid poll were roughly what it was last time around at 36,000, this would leave a quota of 25% at 9,001. If the incumbents were down under 10% that would place them close to 3,000 1st preferences.

So, were I to have gotten over 2,000 or say 5/6% of 1st preferences (depending on the turnout) and both of the other FGer to get 2,500 between them and were I to get no less than 50% of their transfers, it might have left me on just over 3,000 votes. And in a race where the incumbents were starting on a similar figure and with an anti incumbent trend then I just might just stand a chance of being elected. So do I think that will happen? In simple terms, ‘probably not’.

As it stands right now, I don’t believe that the anti-incumbent trend materialised though I do believe there will be a noticeable transfer pattern against Sen. Ronan Mullen that was not in effect the last time out. Whether that means he will be caught by someone from the peleton it is hard to tell at this stage. And the entry of Prof. John Crown has meant that those seeking someone new for its own sake had someone with ready name recognition and a pre-existing media profile to readily rally around. Add to this the extensive media access he was accorded compared to the rest of the combined field and it is hard to see him failing to register amongst the top 5 on the first count and to be ready reserve currency for transfers.  I actually suspect that Prof. John Crown will top the poll, followed by Feargal Quinn and then Ronan Mullen but with the latter only just ahead of a chasing bunch. And I think someone from Peter Mooney, James Doorley, Mick Molloy or Declan Kelleher (the INTO is the most organised of the teaching unions in this election and he will attract solid teacher transfers from O’Sullivan and Healy) to challenge Sen. Mullen to the last seat. I will have a separate post with my more detailed predictions of what I think people will get.

As for myself, I didn’t manage to get much in the way national press exposure, indeed despite having contested the election before I was gazumped for the Vincent Browne panels. My understanding is that they did some focus groups and felt my handsome visage that late at night when many couples were watching the show whilst abed would have lead to matrimonial strive and the breakdown of civil order. That or they thought that only those close to the capital should be on the box.

My honest guess right now, (this is written during the campaign and then scheduled to go out the day of the count) is that I’m may end up falling short of my original goals, ended up somewhere around the 700/800 mark. So I’m not going to be shaken by George Hook’s hand and told that I gave it a decent go.

* actually, the more common phrasing was “what the f&ck were you thinking?”

** I was thinking that I might have a lock on the bearded, burly gent vote prior to the close of nominations but once the ballots went out that demographic became the most contest of all!

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