Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Leadership 2013 Candidate Profile: Trent Wotherspoon

By most accounts, Trent Wotherspoon's campaign launch vaulted him immediately to frontrunner status. But let's take a closer look at whether he's likely to maintain that lead throughout the Saskatchewan NDP leadership race.

Strengths

Wotherspoon starts out with two significant advantages over his competitors. First, he's a natural retail politician: not just comfortable and friendly but downright gregarious in working any room, with seemingly boundless energy to put that skill to regular use. And second, there's a strong organization which allowed him to start the leadership campaign with a massive show of support.

And those two factors aren't operating in isolation. Wotherspoon has started the leadership campaign with an ambitious travel schedule, ensuring that he reaches out to the maximum number of potential voters before support has solidified - and presumably making a positive impression along the way.

Weaknesses

But then, there's this:



Or in written form..."What I'm excited about doing is building with purpose and bringing people together towards the common cause that exists, towards making that crystal clear focus that we are about making the improvements in the lives of Saskatchewan people in our communities..."

Now, the above isn't in response to a difficult question in a press scrum: instead, it's Wotherspoon's opening pitch which goes out of its way to avoid defining his campaign's animating "common cause". And while Wotherspoon has sounded far more convincing in some other formats (see e.g. his take on inter-connectivity and inequality here), it can't be a good sign if his official campaign message consists of word salad - particularly if the plan is to have Wotherspoon defend non-specifics in a debate format against his policy-savvy competitors.

Key Indicator

Of course, Wotherspoon's base may not see a campaign of broad generalities as reason to change course. But we'll want to keep a close eye on his approval among other candidates' supporters and undecided voters: if weaknesses in Wotherspoon's message and presentation are seen to trump his charisma among those without a personal stake in his campaign, he may be in for a rough race.

Key Opponent

Not surprisingly, the most important opponent for Wotherspoon looks to be Cam Broten - who has thus far combined a comparable level of institutional support with a more clear set of values.

Wotherspoon may have separate paths to victory based on either taking an insurmountable lead on the first ballot, or assembling enough support within the Meili and Weir camps to fend off Broten in a multi-ballot vote. But the two may involve substantially different strategies as the campaign progresses.
 
Plausible Outcomes
Best-case: First-ballot victory based on strong organization and personal appeal
Worst-case: Mid-place finish as members coalesce around other candidates' values and policy proposals

5 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:42 AM

    Good analysis but I'd suggest one change.

    Wotherspoon's Key Opponent is actually the ghost of Dwain Lingenfelter.

    If NDP members care that Trent was so closely associated with Link's campaign, there's a really good chance he won't win. If they don't care, there's a good chance he will.

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  2. Anonymous6:37 PM

    So what he supported a leader that was VOTED in, is everyone not suppose to be a team and work together for a better Saskatchewan, does it not show Trent can be a team player, regardless of who the captain is. If someone was to say they didn`t vote for Trent because of Lingenfelter, I would say that`s BS, they wouldn`t have voted for him regardless.

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  3. Anonymous8:31 PM

    If your captain plays so poorly and his skills and strategy are so out-of-date that your team suffers its worst loss in 50 years, then, yes, you've got to wonder about the assistant captains who helped make him captain in the first place, not whether they supported him once he was top guy.

    Like I said, it's the ghost of Dwain Lingenfelter that's haunting Trent. If people care, he won't win this race. If they do, he won't. Simple as that.

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  4. To all,

    Some perspective.

    When Stephan Dion performed poorly as leader, many Liberals chastised those who had supported Dion's initial leadership campaign.

    They were certain that - had the esteemed runner-up taken them into the election (instead of Dion) - they would not have suffered such a humiliating electoral defeat.

    Well, those disgruntled Liberals got their chance. Dion was quickly replaced with the esteemed runner-up: Michael Ignatieff.

    The result of this "correction" was that the Liberals suffered their worst defeat EVER. Ignatieff performed worse than Dion.

    Interesting footnote...Justin Trudeau was one of those who helped push Stephan Dion "over the top" in that initial leadership campaign.

    Today, polling companies insist that Justin Trudeau's leadership would help the Liberals surpass both the Conservatives & New Democrats in popular support.

    Trent Wotherspoon could not predict Dwain Lingenfelter's future? Alright, the local psychic hotline will be made aware.

    Now let us get on with matters of presentation, policy, rhetoric, & sheer circumstance...because it is the interaction of these complex elements that determines elections.

    Best,
    Dan Tan

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  5. I'd first question the assumption that Trent should be classified as "so closely associated with Link's campaign": he was an endorser, but to my recollection far from being part of Lingenfelter's core group.

    But then, as Dan notes the most sure way to compound past problems is to keep dwelling on them rather than planning for the future. And I don't think I'm alone in being far more interested in testing what Trent and the other candidates plan to do from here on out, rather than trying to bury anybody for a single choice four years ago.

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