All to say that last night both was, and was not, a surprise.
As much as the media last night was discussing the failure of the pollsters, it was more of a failure of the seat-count modelers. SES's final poll was within the margin of error for last night. But there was some shifting, and it was all towards the Liberals... as a result, a lot of races fell the Liberal way.
The Conservatives took 29.6% of the vote. That's about as low as they were in any poll since the beginning of the month. Unfortunately for them, it is also one of the lowest results ever for a party at the right side of the spectrum. They have quite a long way to go.
There has been a lot of excitement over the Conservatives, but I attribute this to the merger making the right a force for the first time since 1988. That, and the general weakness of the Liberals.
I haven't looked much around the blog world yet, but I can imagine some of what I'm going to hear. The Conservatives lost because of the dirty Liberal fearmongering, or because of media bias, or because of the "stupidity" of Ontarians. None of this is correct, in my opinion.
Several weeks ago, I tried to make the point that more Canadians prefer the policy positioning that the Liberals own at the centre of the spectrum. Many have been upset by the scandals, but at the same time the Conservatives were offering a different, less-desired platform. So, voters had to choose -- the preferred policy with discredited implementers, or new implementers of less-popular policy. When I said this, some commenters accused me of being a hard-core Liberal partisan, spreading propaganda. However, I stand by this explanation, and count it as the rationale for what happened at the ballot boxes yesterday.
I certainly wasn't alone in this interpretation. James Bow argued a similar point independently, and has repeated a related thought today.
Anyway, if anyone ought to be disappointed today, I think it should be the NDP. They had a great improvement but lost a lot of close races! At one point, they were leading in 28 and this morning I read that they only won 19. That sounds like a lot of bad breaks. And, considering the constant talk of "strategic voting", I think that many of those seats could have been won if NDP supporters simply stuck with their party. If they had, they would have won more influence -- exactly what NDP supporters are usually afraid they won't get if they "waste" their vote.
I don't know how long this Parliament will last. However, I do think the next election will be different. A lot of people made last-moment decisions to support the Liberals yesterday, and we can see the result. Next time around, I think people will be counting on this Liberal bounce and will decide it's safe for them to vote their heart.