Today's debate didn't do much to resolve the continued uncertainty surrounding the NDP's leadership campaign, particularly among the candidates I've had ranked between 2nd and 5th for the bulk of the race. But let's see if the last week has changed any of the rankings...
1. Thomas Mulcair (1)
Mulcair still ranks well ahead of the pack, and indeed is largely rising above the most contentious exchanges as the candidates below jockey for position. But his new "strong, structured opposition" catchphrase rather cries out for explanation - and I wouldn't be surprised if plenty of NDP members have serious concerns about the prospect of top-down organization and message control if that's what he has in mind.
2. Peggy Nash (2)
I count myself in the crowd that's long expected a Mulcair vs. Nash final ballot. But I'm becoming less and less convinced that Nash will indeed be the final candidate left to challenge Mulcair - and she holds this place on the list for another week mostly for lack of a clear indication who's set to step into the position.
3. Brian Topp (4)
Topp could well be that candidate, as he once again showed his ability to drive the narrative this week, first seeing his camp join Mulcair's in suggesting the next leader has to come from Quebec before launching a strong challenge to Mulcair. But at least from my observations of the debates so far, Topp has all too often conveyed a much higher personal opinion of his performance than the audience has offered - and it's hard to see that being a recipe for down-ballot success.
4. Paul Dewar (3)
Meanwhile, Dewar had a good week on a couple of fronts, winning over key support from Romeo Saganash's former camp while sounding convincing on the party-building front in today's debate. But his French is still at best borderline for a serious contender, and it'll be tough to place him higher then Nash or Topp in the long run without either showing a similarly fundamental weakness.
5. Nathan Cullen (5)
Today offered a first indication as to how Cullen will respond to being seen as a serious threat to the rest of the upper-tier candidates. And while he wasn't able to play the jokester to quite the same extent as a result, he generally held up well under the pressure.
6. Niki Ashton (6)
Once again Ashton had her moments in today's debate, particularly in a rousing warning to Stephen Harper at the end of her closing statement. But she was somewhat inconsistent as well, starting the same address sounding somewhat flustered and uncertain - and she's running out of time to show she can stay consistently effective throughout a debate.
7. Martin Singh (7)
Singh took a couple of steps beyond his core campaign messages today, and with one key exception that generally served him well. But his repeated challenges to Brian Topp look to have been utterly misplaced: the last thing the NDP can afford in trying to promote a progressive economic message is to have prominent figures promoting generous tax regimes for the wealthy in order to fund the charitable sector, and Singh's one-note questioning on that front did more to call his own judgment into question than Topp's