I’ll admit that it is a bit daring to comment a debate which I haven’t watched yet, but still: Here are a number of factors worth remembering when you read comments about Sunday’s debate (billed as a “duel”) between Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Helle Thorning-Schmidt or the coming electoral campaign.
1. The Liberals and the Social Democrats look set to win 45-50 percent of the vote combined. While it will be extremely surprising to see anybody else than Lars Løkke Rasmussen or Helle Thorning-Schmidt emerging as prime minister after the election, it is not much of a presidential election.
But I’m pretty certain Danish media will present it as such.
2. We should never, ever, confuse a battle with a war. It is perfectly to win a battle – or even a series of battles – and still lose the war. Similarly, the left side may perform poorly in a debate, a series of debates or even the entire campaign and still win the election.
3. Polls show that the left side has the advantage: Compared with 2001, 2005 and to some degree 2007 the voters’ agenda has changed and the view of the left and the right has also changed.
a. Unemployment and welfare are up, immigration is down. This gives the left an advantage.
b. Voters rate the left more favourably than the government on unemployment, welfare, health care and education. This gives the left an even bigger advantage.
4. Even if S and SF attract voters from the right, it is still worth noting that the Social Democrats have problems improving their (bad) 2007 performance.
5. That the voters tend to trust the left more on the main issues doesn’t imply that the S-SF economic policy platform is adequate given the economic challenges faced by Denmark.
Personally, I would expect the coming decade in large parts to be a replay of the late 1980s with a long period with very slow growth.