Monday, October 01, 2012

Leadership 2013 Candidate Profile: Ryan Meili

Ryan Meili started the 2009 Saskatchewan NDP leadership campaign at a distinct disadvantage against his opponents in terms of both time and name recognition. But he nonetheless came within just over five hundred votes of emerging as the party's leader.

For the 2013 campaign, Meili starts out as much more of a known quantity. But this doesn't look to be the type of contest where the previous runner-up is anointed as a favourite. So will he end up doing as well in a radically different race?


Once again, there's plenty of upside to Meili's candidacy. In the previous campaign, he built on a solid resume by proving himself to be both an engaging campaigner and a strong policy thinker. And Meili has developed both of those strengths in the time since - writing a well-received book and making connections around the country to expand on those he developed in 2009.

In addition, Meili should have some organizational advantages based on the fact that he's run a leadership campaign before. But as I'll discuss shortly, it's not yet clear how much of a plus that factor will be. 


While Meili stood out among the crowd in the previous leadership campaign, this isn't the 2009 field of candidates - where Yens Pedersen struggled to gain traction, Deb Higgins got stuck in neutral, and Dwain Lingenfelter provided an ideal foil for a message of youth and renewal. Instead, Meili will have three tough competitors for the title of "fresh young face" to lead the party - all of whom have spent more time in the public eye than he has over the past few years.

Moreover, Meili won't have the element of surprise on his side this time. And that means he'll likely face far more scrutiny from his rivals' camps than he did last time out, even as he faces a more difficult task in drawing contrasts that work in his favour.
Key Indicator

At the outset, the key question for Meili looks to be how much of his previous support is still in his camp and actively engaged to start the new campaign.

If he starts out with a machine of similar size, skill and enthusiasm as the one which wound up in his camp by the end of the previous campaign, Meili could once again far outperform expectations - which this time might mean a resounding victory. But if he hasn't locked in that past support, he may face a much tougher fight in trying to grow from his existing base.

Key Opponent

While I don't rule out the possibility that Meili could win on the first ballot (after all, sometimes past performance does hint at future results), his more likely path to victory would involve a final-ballot contest against Trent Wotherspoon. And it'll be particularly important for Meili not to be left behind by Wotherspoon's fast start in member outreach - lest he lose out on the HOAG factor based on his simply not reaching as many voters.
Plausible Outcomes
Best-case: First-ballot victory as more experience, time and exposure pave the way for a resounding win
Worst-case: Fourth-place finish as competitors eat into previous areas of growth

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