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OTTAWA, June 26 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a result that has astounded the Canadian media and other observers,  Stockwell Day beat Preston Manning for first place in the first round of voting in the Canadian Alliance leadership race. Manning received 36% of the vote, 8% behind Stockwell Day, who garnered 44% of the vote. As expected, Ontario Tory strategist Tom Long finished third, with only 18% of the vote.  British Columbia MP Keith Martin, who ran on an openly pro-abortion platform, received less than 2% of the ballots cast.  While the days leading up to Saturday’s ballot saw numerous media reports concerning efforts by the Long campaign to sign up thousands of “instant” members in Quebec and elsewhere, Long finished a poor third.  He even failed to win his home province of Ontario where Day captured 13, 041 votes to Long’s 11,952.  Manning was third in Ontario, with only 8358.

Ontario has been a problem for Manning who, as leader of the Reform Party, failed to win a single seat in the province in the 1997 federal election.

Still, Day’s surprising strength in Ontario failed to impress some of Manning’s supporters.  Nancy Branscombe, a defeated Reform candidate form Peterborough and a senior Manning organizer,  observed that “Stockwell Day did well internally.  But I don’t think he can win outside the party among general voters in Ontario.  His is just too strident in his views.”  Branscombe also expects the Manning campaign to step up its attacks on Day, adding that in the days before the July 8 vote Manning’s effort “won’t be as polite this time.”

For its part, the Day campaign is not worried about the negative tactics of the Manning campaign.  Jason Kenney, an Alliance MP and campaign manager for the Day campaign, believes that “This kind of desperation tactics are to be expected from desperate people in desperate times. The Manning spin doctors have been employing those divisive tactics for some time and it hasn’t worked.  It isn’t going to.”

Manning was visibly shaken by his second place showing, but vowed to continue his battle to win the leadership of the Canadian Alliance through to the final ballot, to be held on July 8th.

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