I've run through a high-level analysis of the NDP's leadership candidates this week knowing that paper ballots are being mailed out, that online voting starts today, and that the leadership candidates will soon be racing to lock in as many votes as possible (with little focus on the down-ballot impacts on other candidates which may ultimately decide the campaign). And so there's not a moment to lose as I implore NDP members to...
1. Be Patient
Yes, the voting window is opening. But there's still plenty of time for additional developments in the race: the positioning of the candidates ranked 2nd through 5th still seems to be in flux, and there's plenty of reason to reserve judgment until we have as much information as possible as to exactly what our options are. (As a particularly interesting possibility, Alice notes that Romeo Saganash's name will be on the first ballot - making for a useful parking spot for any concerted effort at an outcome such as "Cullen minus joint nominations".)
Otherwise, the danger is that a reasonable explanation as to Thomas Mulcair's plans for the party or a compromise as to Nathan Cullen's joint nomination pitch might come too late, as enough votes are already locked in to push the outcome in another direction. Which is why I'll be waiting until convention to vote - and encouraging readers to do the same.
2. If You Must Vote Now...
(a) Rank Brian Topp 1st
I've come to the conclusion that Topp is the best of the candidates as matters stand now based on his obvious strengths in policy command and organizational acumen, as well as the progress he's made in his public presentation.
But equally importantly, even if he's indeed at the bottom of the second tier for the moment, a candidate who's written the book on how to make deals under fire looks like the best option to use his voting bloc to secure the best possible compromise outcome at the leadership convention. So if I had to vote today, it would be Topp leading the way.
(b) Rank Nathan Cullen over Thomas Mulcair
My two preferred outcomes actually involve one of these candidates winning after what would hopefully be considered a palatable change in course. But while there's no apparent prospect that Cullen will win an easy early-ballot victory, there's a real possibility that Mulcair might get exactly the sweeping mandate he's requesting rather than having to answer the concerns of other camps. And a stronger showing for Cullen will again improve the leverage of other candidates to secure compromises.
(c) Rank Paul Dewar over Peggy Nash
Finally, among the candidates perceived as compromise leaders (as distinct from strong candidates who may need to compromise on their mandate expectations), the choice comes down to a candidate whose weakness (Dewar's French) can be fixed, against one whose major flaw (Nash's difficulties under pressure) won't likely improve with time. And so I'll recommend putting Dewar ahead in the head-to-head matchup.
Again, though, my immediate preference is for as many members as possible to reserve enough judgment to be able to influence what the candidates see fit to offer as the campaign draws to a close.