As promised, let's start taking a closer look at the four candidates in Saskatchewan's NDP leadership race - starting with Cam Broten as the first to formally announce his candidacy.
To the extent NDP members plan to vote based a checklist of experience and personal traits, Broten is positioned as well as any of the contenders. He's in his second term as an elected MLA; he served as chair of the NDP's most recent policy renewal process; and he has a strong reputation as an opposition critic.
Moreover, Broten has also shown enough organization to shape the race to his advantage. Not only was he the first to launch his campaign, he smartly used that opportunity to get a head start in defining himself while also releasing a fairly detailed platform from day one.
But then, there's a reason why self-definition was a priority for Broten's campaign.To start with, his public presentation so far has been mostly as a member of the NDP's team of candidates rather than as an individual - and the relatively blank slate obviously needs to be filled in.
That said, the greater issue for Broten will be whether he can move past merely reaching the minimum criteria, and win over voters by standing out in any particular area - be it personal appeal, policy or vision. And that will be no easy task in a field where each of his competitors excels in at least one of those areas.
Broten should be well positioned to earn final-ballot support regardless of who else stays in the race: on a final ballot against Wotherspoon he should be the favourite to win over the votes of policy- and values-oriented voters from the Meili and Weir camps, while any other final-ballot opponent would likely send a good chunk of Wotherspoon's institutional support into Broten's hands.
But either of those outcomes requires that Broten impress enough voters early on to remain as one of the final two choices.
And the greatest danger for Broten's campaign on that point looks to come from Ryan Meili. It's still an open question as to how (if at all) we should discount Meili's 2009 level of support based on a different field of candidates. But he looks to have both a reasonable chance of ranking ahead of Broten on the first ballot, and an obvious advantage when it comes to pulling support from Weir voters if Broten doesn't have a substantial lead.
That combination raises a real possibility that Broten's campaign could go the way of Deb Higgins' 2009 run, with a plausible multiple-ballot path to victory as a compromise candidate snuffed out by a lack of early-ballot enthusiasm.
Best-case: Mid-ballot victory based on moderate lead on multiple ballots
Worst-case: Early-ballot exit if campaign doesn't generate strong personal support base