Sunday, March 18, 2012

Leadership 2012 Candidate Rankings - March 18, 2012

Since last week, we've seen the NDP's leadership campaign win plenty more attention in the media. But has any of the news managed to change the positioning of the candidates?

1. Thomas Mulcair (1)

Well, we've certainly seen Thomas Mulcair under the microscope more than he's ever been. But while the week gave rise to a couple of points which may not help his cause (with controversy over his positions on marijuana decriminalization and Syria among the points which may lose him later-ballot support), he still looks likely to hold a significant first-ballot lead over the next tier of candidates. And with Martin Singh expressly directing second-choice support toward Mulcair, we should expect another 5-point bump beyond what Mulcair gets on the first ballot before the rest of the candidates' supporters sort through their options.

2. Peggy Nash (2)

Nash still looks like the most likely of those options to emerge as leader. Until we see some more recent polling, the best operating assumption seems to be that she's still in the #2 position to start with, and she's positioned herself as a plausible choice for backers of all of the rest of the candidates.

3. Paul Dewar (3)

But I do see the gap between the #2 and #4 positions on this list tightening as the race draws to a close - and the most important question may be that of who ends up #2 on the first ballot. If Dewar can get the jump on Nash, then he figures to have a strong chance to draw in supporters from her and Topp to set up a final ballot challenge to Mulcair - and the more time members spend wondering about the front-runner, the less likely they'll be to focus on Dewar's French as a deciding factor.

4. Nathan Cullen (4)

Unlike the two candidates ahead of him, Cullen has been the beneficiary of plenty of pundit commentary over the past month or so - and it seems to have at least some basis in fund-raising numbers. But the issue for Cullen remains his ability to draw in down-ballot support, so merely starting off in second place may not be enough if a good number of Nash/Dewar/Topp supporters join forces.

5. Brian Topp (5)

While Ed Broadbent's public statements this week earned Topp some attention, they also hinted at the largest issue with Topp's campaign: less than a week from the leadership vote, he still hasn't developed enough of a profile to make a dent compared to his more storied supporters. And that combined with a backlash from other camps figures to severely limit Topp's likelihood of convincing anybody to offer down-ballot support.

6. Niki Ashton (6)

One of the less-discussed advantages any candidate has enjoyed in the leadership race has been the fact that the Harper Cons have been pushing a pipeline right through Nathan Cullen's riding, giving him a signature issue to point to throughout the race. Ashton's great "what if" may be the question of whether she could have turned earlier news about a Viterra buyout - fitting with both her prairie base and concern about foreign takeovers - into enough of a membership and profile boost to rank higher in the field.

7. Martin Singh (7)

He's maximized his possible impact on the race by offering his second-choice support to Mulcair. But I'm still less than convinced that he's done much for his standing within the party even if Mulcair wins.

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