Fianna Fail has decided to turn its back on the Presidential race, a decision I am somewhat dumbfounded about.
The crazy way that Martin has approached celebrity candidates, the spurning of Brian Crowley, the way the entire affair has become drawn out, has all served to make Fianna Fail look worse than it would have looked in the event of another electoral mauling. One can only wonder what morale is like in the party at this stage, as their leadership runs away from the first major electoral test since the General Election. Even an improvement on their numbers in that contest, regardless of overall finishing place, would have made it worth it, in my eyes. God knows Fianna Fail isn’t up to much otherwise.
But, I can see a scenario, one that I would not consider too unlikely or extreme, where Fianna Fail could have won the Presidential election.
The candidate would have to have been Crowley. Crowley would have gained a strong vote from Munster, where his MEP numbers have been noteworthy for a Fianna Failer in recent times. He would have gained a sympathy vote due to his disability.
And most importantly, I think he would have looked good next to the other candidates. He would be a young candidate (47) and would have looked almost spry next to the elderly Higgins. He would have looked far better than Mitchell, who turns more and more people off whenever he talks. Get him next to those two, and he would have gained votes just from appearances.
Of course, the drawback is his party, but he has ways to combat that. He would be new to much of the country: he has not been a TD so can claim to have had no part in the catastrophe of the last few years.
Most importantly, Crowly doesn’t have to win to win. That is, he doesn’t have to gain the most first preferences.
Higgins will get them, I have little doubt, but I do doubt that he would get 50%+ on the first count. What Crowley would have aimed for is second place on the first count, ahead of Mitchell.
Davis voters would, due to her support base, naturally have transferred to him. Gallagher, I would think, would have so few votes as to be a non-factor.
Then there is Mitchell. Mitchell’s voters would not transfer large scale to Higgins, they’re too different, but they may very well have chosen to give their second preferences to Crowley, rather than the more left Higgins. I simply cannot see the people who would vote first for Mitchell choosing Higgins as their second choice when Crowley is available. A potential Sinn Fein candidate would transfer to Higgins, but I can’t offer analysis on such a scenario when I don’t even know who it would be.
In short, I would consider Crowley to have been the most transfer friendly candidate on the ballot.
So, if he could have got a second place finish, no small task I would admit, I think he could have gotten the transfers he needed to overtake Higgins. It would be close, but I think that the victory would have been possible. It worked for Mary Robinson, after all. It would be dependent on many factors, perhaps too many, but it would not have been impossible.
So I am disappointed by Fianna Fail’s decision, one I feel has been taken out of fear, out of misplaced turst in polls (ask Brian Lenihan how that worked out), out of spinelessness. Fianna Fail have fallen even further in my eyes. I remember the party that gave it their best shot in truly dire circumstances last February, a party whose grass-roots didn’t just throw in the towel.
That party appears to have gone to sleep.
As of right now, I see nothing that can realistically prevent a victory for Michael D. Higgins.