Sunday, January 29, 2012

Leadership 2012 Candidate Rankings - January 29, 2012

With one exception, the NDP's Halifax leadership debate looks largely to have largely reinforced the previous positions of its leadership candidates. But there could be plenty more changes in store if a few developments from the debate hold up in the weeks to come.

1. Thomas Mulcair (1)

As the front-runner, Mulcair naturally took the most fire in the question-period format (which incidentally made for a highly worthwhile addition to the debate). And Mulcair's response to Paul Dewar - featuring both righteous indignation and substance without going over the top - offered a nice hint as to what we can expect when he faces outside challenges.

2. Peggy Nash (2)

The one problem for Nash in today's debate was that she followed up Mulcair's question to Nathan Cullen with a less-effective version of the same concern about his non-competition plan. But otherwise she again more than held her own on both content and style.

3. Brian Topp (3)

Topp has eliminated a few of the tics that made for difficult viewing in the first official debate, signalling some positive progress throughout the campaign. But perhaps the best gift he received today was Romeo Saganash's question about income taxes: where Saganash had positioned himself to Topp's left on a number of issues, the comparison between Saganash worrying what the Cons would say about income tax increases and Topp's response as to the need to win the argument in the general public made for an ideal moment to highlight Topp's central message.

4. Paul Dewar (4)

In the absence of any stumbles ahead of him Dewar doesn't move up the rankings this week. But he delivered a far more passionate English performance than we've seen from him in previous debates - and if he can keep that up in debates to come, he'll have a much better chance of convincing members the party can allow some time for him to develop his skill in French.

5. Romeo Saganash (5)

The flip side of the above comment on Topp is that Saganash may have missed out on a path which held out plenty of promise for him. And while I still see at least some available path for Saganash to emerge victorious, it figures to a much more complex route if he can't rely on "go left" to make room for himself.

6. Nathan Cullen (7)

Yes, Cullen once again showed far more humour than any of the other candidates in today's debate to go with at worst a draw in commanding the crowd. But the outside factor which may actually help him most is that his central proposal is becoming less and less plausible.

With plenty of (however inaccurate) headlines trumpeting a Lib revival, there doesn't seem to be much reason for leadership voters to see a willing partner for non-competition. And that may make it easier for members to evaluate Cullen on his personality and other policy proposals.

7. Niki Ashton (6)

Her drop in the rankings is more the result of another strong performance by Cullen than any problem with Ashton. But it's not clear she'll have much chance to move up if the rest of the campaign is largely framed around a debate format where she seems to be having trouble standing out from the crowd.

8. Martin Singh (8)

Once again, the big question for Singh is whether he's willing to move past his few areas of policy specialization toward more general discussions. And while he was plenty comfortable in front of a hometown crowd, he still stuck more to his areas of familiarity than he can afford to if he wants to overtake any of his competitors.

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