It is a very big surprise to see Sean Gallagher doing so well in this race.
Saying that, it was inevitable really, if I had put any thought into it. Higgins and Gallagher, the two candidates without any major flaws, without scandal, without obvious attacking strategies, have come to the fore. Voters, already apathetic about the crop, are naturally drawn towards them, not out of any real enthusiasm, but because they seem to be the clear best of a bad lot.
And while that has always been the bedrock of Higgins in this race, it has given a great deal of momentum to Gallagher, whose debate performances and platform are obviously connecting with voters. Now a confirmed second, he has some big moments ahead.
See, I would have written off Gallagher completely if he was still on his old numbers a week from now, but that’s changed. Now, breaking 20% in the polls, he suddenly is garnering more media attention, more publicity. He’ll be in the spotlight in a way that he just wasn’t before, as the one man who might be able to win the election instead of “MDH”.
So, he needs to make good use of the next week. He needs to be out there, in the papers, on the radio, on the TV. He needs to keep up the message. He needs to get next to other candidates, especially Higgins, and make sure that in his words and actions, he is seen as a viable alternative.
The problem is the issue of his Fianna Fail membership. I would not hold such former membership against him. It is unclear how major a figure he was in the party, but if he has left, he has left. Only if his membership of Fianna Fail is still current, utterly destroying his claims of independence and lack of party bias, would it become an issue for me. Perhaps an unforgivable issue.
He has a base of support. He has the transfer potential. He is someone that Fianna Fail voters will turn to instead of McGuinness. He can do it.
It is the transfer thing that’s important, and both Gallagher and Higgins have huge numbers in that regard. Right now, the Labour mans numbers are better, but not by much.
Right now, I like Gallagher. He comes off as straight forward and practical, calm and collected. He has no negativity around him. He’s young, he has a message that he is sticking to.
He’s just very genuinely positive about Ireland and the direction we can go, which is refreshing to see amid a campaign of sound bites and empty promises. I would be lying if I said that I was not considering him for a first preference. But the Fianna Fail issue is crucial, and he needs to address that definitively as soon as possible (if he can).
In other news, Gay Mitchell is not done.
Polls are things that I have an uneasy relationship with. For General Elections, I have little time for them. In that scenario, they’re polling people on a national level for an election that is confined to local constituencies. That makes no sense, and all data is skewed as a result.
But, I have more time for polls in this election, because this is a national election, one constituency. A national poll will better correspond to a national vote.
The recent polls are also mostly uniform, which gets the thumbs up from me.
All that being said though, I simply cannot believe the Mitchell numbers.
Sorry, but there is no way that Mitchell will poll that low. I don’t think he can win, and I don’t think he’d even make the top three, but with Fine Gael smashing the 30% barrier nationally, the idea that their Presidential candidate will get single figures is eye raising to say the least.
He’ll get FGs traditional rural vote, he’ll get a decent Dublin vote, he’ll get a religious vote. He’ll get transfers off Dana. Mitchell isn’t going to have a stellar election, and I imagine he will wind up as little more then an historical vote note, but he isn’t going to do that badly. The FG machine, more to avoid complete embarrassment then anything, will go into motion, get the canvassers out, the base motivated, and they’ll get the numbers to stop a total disaster.
Right now, I’d predict a close fourth place ahead of Norris and behind McGuinness, though everything is subject to change I suppose. Still several weeks to go.