I think the recent MRBI poll (published May 19th) boils down to the following, taken on the day itself of those prepared to give an opinion less than 1 in 3 of voterswill support FF and over 1 in 4 people will support FG. If after the long summer of world cup football, beautiful weather and fine women FF are still under 35% and FG are still over 25% then the whole thing is completely wide open from then on until polling day.
If FF did get over 35% in the September poll then I would expect them to give into the temptation and go to the country with a budget based election, it would represent their last chance to get enough support to have the seats to do a deal with Labour. We all know that FF +PDs isn't going to happen.
The PDs maxed out the last time and their only objective this time is to keep their losses at such a level that they don't become completely defunct. I would say that for this to happen they will need a minimum of 4 seats and at least 2 of Harney, McDowell and O'Donnell. For if it was Grealish, O'Malley (Limerick East), Sexton and A.N. Other from Dublin that survived then they would be finished as a party. They can possibly limp on after the loss of one from Harney, McDowell and O'Donnell but not the loss of two.
If FF are under 35% then they will wait it out and go for late Feb, hoping that the actuality of any budget freebies and the usual post Christmas bounce might carry them through. They can’t leave it until May as their support has consistently dropped as the year progresses. And they leave themselves totally at the mercy of events. And let's remember that we are all being told Bertie's isn't a gambler, isn't it a gamble wait for something to happen that might help them than to strike when the picture looks even just plausibly good.
It should be noted that I’ve had 3 / 4 separate reports in the last 2 months about printers here and outside the jurisdiction being put on a retainer for September and October by FF. They are committed to keeping the option open for a quick run as the light gets dark.
Fact is that FF doesn’t have the membership/manpower anymore to completely dominate the canvassing side of things like they once did. Will they have more than any single party on the ground, probably. Though FG would push them closer than they have for many years. Now for FF as a government party the battle must be on the TV and the airwaves, they will have money to burn and they know that ending up in opposition with SF would mean the probable loss of even more seats next time out to SF, irrespective of any gains they might hope to make back from FG, Labour, Greens and the defunct PDs if they bounced back. They simply can’t beat SF in an auction election. Truth is no one can beat SF in an auction because SF will happily promise you the farm because they know they won't do a deal after the election and so won't be called on to deliver.
With all else that happened in recent years the biggest campaigning problem for FF is that their public representatives who are seeking reelection don’t want to be encountering the members of the public who are annoyed about one thing and another. Sadly for them, the Fianna Fail party didn’t take the opportunity to completely lance the boil of public discontent back in 2004 but rather their TDs and most especially ministers avoided engaging the public and left the local election candidates to fend for themselves for the most part. And boy are those local reps sore about it.
The local FF candidates took the heat and bore the losses but it didn’t satisfy the public. I wonder for the local FF councillors how many will kill themselves to get some of the no show FF TDs and ministers back into power? After all, many of the younger ones who did survive ’04 may reckon this is their best means to get a run out the next time themselves. Let the public knock off the sitting TD and there is an opening in the next election, re-elected them and those young people who take the hit in '04 are locked out for another couple of cycles. One thing FF people are is ambitious.
Take a local example, if Deirdre Heney doesn’t run in DNE do you think she will burn as much shoe leather for Haughey or Callely in DNC as she did for herself in '02? Or if she does run in DNE will the local FF councillors there bother to help her and deprive themselves of any chance of run for a generation? Hardly.