Over the past couple of weeks, we've seen what look to be a couple of noteworthy efforts among the NDP's leadership candidates to reach out to other campaigns' supporters in order to win over the down-ballot support that will likely decide the outcome of the campaign. So how have those efforts changed my rankings as to who's most likely to emerge as the winner?
1. Thomas Mulcair (1)
Not much at the top, as Mulcair still looks like at least an even-odds candidate to win. He didn't offer a great deal in response to a series of direct questions as to his plans for the NDP's future, but he once again performed well otherwise.
2. Peggy Nash (2)
However, the recent shifts in campaign strategy play a significant role here. I probably would have moved Nash down the rankings this week if her campaign hadn't positioned her to benefit from Nathan Cullen's supporters with a focus on both proportional representation and co-operation short of joint nominations. But she now figures to have a much better chance than the other second-tier candidates of rallying enough of the combined 2-through-5 support to overcome Mulcair's lead - and Paul Dewar's debate effort to draw a contrast on the latter point may have helped Nash more than himself.
3. Paul Dewar (3)
Which isn't to say Dewar is lacking for some pluses of his own as the campaign winds down. He's conspicuously positioned himself as the leading defender of cooperation within the NDP, and looks to have a relatively direct path to a final-ballot photo-finish if he can get ahead of Nash early to win the votes of her supporters.
4. Nathan Cullen (5)
Cullen was the other candidate to make a smart appeal to an important source of potential down-ballot support - as his question to Martin Singh about his attacks on Brian Topp will likely make Topp's set of vocal defenders see him in a new and more positive light.
5. Brian Topp (4)
I agree with the view of many pundits that Topp performed very well in today's debate - as the punchlines which fell flat through much of the campaign suddenly seemed to land at every turn. But unfortunately for Topp, that success is more than offset by the fact that the media which so willingly listed him as a front-runner from the beginning seems to have concluded he's an afterthought. And I'm not sure he has another path to victory if he's indeed lost the media air war.
6. Niki Ashton (6)
Ashton delivered her best debate performance today as well - which was to be expected given the fit between the topics and her campaign themes. But even if she sneaks ahead of one of the second-tier candidates on the first ballot, it's not clear where she'd have room to grow enough to win.
7. Martin Singh (7)
Finally, Singh's late-campaign decisions may have gone past the point of being useless in the context of the leadership race to actually hurting his future within the NDP. While I'm skeptical about the Mulcair alliance theory, his refusal to back down from his attacks on Topp will make it difficult for a victorious Mulcair to give Singh a prominent role without raising questions and hackles - and Cullen's appalled reaction during the debate itself figures to nicely sum up how the other candidates and NDP members view his choice of targets and messages.