With the voting window open and the second-last debate having just finished, we're into the home stretch of the NDP's leadership campaign. I've posted on the outcomes I'd like to see - but since that's a separate question entirely from how I think matters actually will play out, let's see if anything has changed since last week in my weekly ranking process.
1. Thomas Mulcair (1)
Once again Mulcair ranks well ahead of the second tier of candidates following another week packed with endorsements and another strong debate performance. Unfortunately nobody seriously questioned what his plans are in structuring the opposition - which means that it's no surprise that he didn't bother to explain himself, but also leaves an obvious risk for his campaign if he can't escape the question next week.
2. Peggy Nash (2)
Again, these rankings are based on who has the best chance of winning the leadership rather than my preferences as to who will. And while Nash showed a few of the same problems as usual in today's debate (again posing a question to Dewar about his planned deputies which echoed a previous questioner), she still seems to have by far the best positioning in trying to gather support within the second tier of candidates.
3. Paul Dewar (4)
At this point in the campaign, I'd think the candidates' own choice of targets says a lot about who they see as having the best chance to emerge as leader. And so it may be telling that Dewar was under fire throughout today's second question period, while nobody other than Martin Singh had much apparent interest in challenging Brian Topp.
4. Brian Topp (3)
Mind you, Topp did perform better today than he has most of the way through most of the debates, combining his usual policy substance with a much better effort to connect with the audience. But while he still has a plausible path to pick up down-ballot support, that won't do much good if he's clearly behind Nash and Dewar early on - which is looking like an increasingly likely outcome.
5. Nathan Cullen (5)
Once again Cullen performed well in today's debate, particularly in response to pointed questions from Mulcair about his support for the Sherbrooke Declaration. But in another running theme, his limited prospect of down-ballot support leaves him at the back of the pack for now.
6. Niki Ashton (6)
As in most of the debates Ashton had some strong moments today, but also struggled with a number of responses. And the opportunities to wow debate audiences to make up for limited organizational resources are running out quickly.
7. Martin Singh (7)
I'm not sure what Singh hoped to accomplish by attacking a select group of opponents as much as he did in today's debate - and indeed I wonder whether the intention is to be seen paving the way for a Mulcair victory by signalling how he'd like his supporters to vote as a second choice. But I have to figure that in the long run all the candidates will be best off not going as far over the top as Singh did.