Anybody expecting the holidays to make for a quiet spell in the NDP's leadership race was in for a surprise, as the last week has seen the first candidate departure along with a boost in the number of pundits' rankings and candidate profiles. But will the result be much change in who has the best chance of emerging as the NDP's leader?
1. Thomas Mulcair (1)
Not at the top, that's for sure. I don't buy the Mulcair camp's spin that he was ever an underdog, but it seems that he's easily stayed at the top of the field from day one. And for reasons I'll expand on in a future post, I'm highly skeptical of the "anyone but" theory as to how Mulcair's current lead is supposed to cause him problems later on.
2. Peggy Nash (2)
While Nash's campaign has been relatively quiet over the past few weeks, her direct appeal to female supporters signals that she's not wasting her time developing an early-ballot base. And that combined with strong debate performances to win over second-choice support still adds up to a plausible path to victory for Nash.
3. Brian Topp (3)
Topp's positioning is still the greatest unknown of the race, as he continues to combine a high-gloss media campaign in which he sounds like the Platonic ideal of an NDP leader (recently adding some democratic populism to his earlier call for economic equality) with remarkably little evidence of member support beyond his list of high-profile endorsers. For now, that combination keeps him at the back of my top tier of candidates.
4. Paul Dewar (5)
The big question for Dewar remains his ability to win over down-ballot supporters. But his first ad release looks to have been at least a modest success, and his level of organization at least gives him a better chance than the candidates below him of turning better public performances into an ascent up the ballot.
5. Niki Ashton (4)
The flip side of Nash's effective appeal to female supporters is that Ashton doesn't yet seem to have done much to develop expandable clusters of support of her own. And while the concept of an alliance between the prairies and Quebec nicely fits Ashton's connections, I'll need to see some signs of strength from B.C. and Ontario as well as part of any winning candidate's base.
6. Romeo Saganash (6)
Like Topp, Saganash's recent media exposure has featured starkly contrasting analysis of his prospects. And as with Topp, I'm more inclined to treat the contrasting theories (with David Akin listing him as an upper-tier contender and Ian Capstick as a candidate for an early exit) as extreme best-case and worst-case scenarios respectively - leaving the current projection roughly on track.
7. Nathan Cullen (7)
Cullen continues to unveil some of the most detailed and best thought-out policy proposals of the leadership campaign, with his Arctic policy joining the list this week. But the main question for his candidacy remains his ability to turn an appeal for cross-party cooperation into a a wave of leadership support - and there's still little indication that's happening.
8. Martin Singh (8)
He eked his way out of the bottom position for a couple of weeks before Robert Chisholm's departure from the race. But from here on in, Singh has a long way to go to compete with any of the candidates ahead of him - and three weeks of radio silence aren't helping matters.