Sunday, April 01, 2012

Leadership 2012 Lessons Learned - Pundit Edition

With a week's perspective on the NDP's leadership campaign, I'll take a quick look back to see - particularly in comparing my own impressions as to how the vote might play out to what actually happened.

To start off with, let's note that of all the publicly-available metrics available to evaluate the race, none served as a particularly useful means of evaluating first-ballot support. The only ones which correctly pegged the two top of Thomas Mulcair and Brian Topp were fund-raising and endorsements. But the former suggested a much tighter five-way race than proved to be the case, while the latter would have placed Nathan Cullen a distant fifth rather than a strong third.

Indeed, the closest overall single metric looks to have mentions. Which may give rise to some chicken-or-egg philosophizing, but also offers a data point to suggest that those who took the time to cover the campaign did fairly well in collectively assessing its outcome.

That said, there are a couple of points I'll take away from the campaign for future punditry.

First, while it was fairly obvious that different dynamics were at play in different parts of the country, my biggest mistake lay in presuming that one Saskatchewan-specific dynamic would play out similarly elsewhere.

My impression is still that Brian Topp's Saskatchewan endorsements (which he trumpeted at several points in the campaign) were well out of proportion to his share of support among at least the members at the events I attended. And I extrapolated from that view to figure that Topp's support elsewhere was similarly top-heavy. But instead, he had enough grassroots support to come closer than I'd thought possible on the first ballot.

(Of course, it's possible that Topp could have dispelled any false impressions by releasing some of his own campaign's data, rather than treating a perceived lack of momentum merely as a PR issue to be swatted away with a mere "nah, that's wrong". And I'll expand on that possibility in a future post about lessons learned and what-ifs for the candidates.)

The other obvious mistaken impression was as to Paul Dewar's first-ballot support. But that one simply looks to be a matter of reality defying all evidence available at the time of the vote - which if anything should serve as a warning about pretending to know more than we do before a vote takes place.

So the take-aways from the NDP's leadership campaign are to listen more to...spin-meisters and the mainstream media. Which may make for the most surprising outcome of all.

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