As the candidate with the least name recognition in a field consisting of the 2009 Saskatchewan NDP leadership runner-up and two multi-term MLAs, Erin Weir has spent much of the ongoing leadership campaign working on being seen as a contender within the field, rather than being ignored an also-ran. And the most important publicly-available indicators (including his own campaign's much-ballyhooed poll, as well as the candidate fund-raising numbers) suggest he's met that standard so far.
In addition, Weir has excelled in the give-and-take portions of the leadership debates, sparring regularly with each of the other candidates and generally getting the better of the exchanges.
But to succeed in the leadership campaign, Weir will ultimately need to win over enough undecided voters and/or down-ballot support to build off of that initial position. And there's reason to wonder whether his early strategy and positioning may limit his growth potential as the campaign progresses.
In particular, Weir has focused most of his attention on policy costing and details - essentially taking agreement on progressive values as a given among the pool of possible voters, and choosing not to make much of a principled case for them himself.
In the longer term, that looks to me like a missed opportunity to build support for agreed values using the platform offered by coverage of the leadership race. But it also means that undecided voters comparing how candidates' messages reflect their own values priorities may end up finding less in Weir's presentation than in that of the other candidates.
At the same time, Weir's campaign has focused to a great extent on responding to economic news in the media - where he typically answers the compulsive self-promotion of the Saskatchewan Party (or in some cases the federal Conservatives) with what can seem to be an equally reflexive countermessage. That strategy certainly keeps his name in the public eye as a critic of the Wall government, but it too means that he's regularly seen responding to others' actions and messages, rather than building a leadership organization that can provide a model for the NDP's future growth.
To sum up, Weir's campaign has taken a relatively safe path toward being seen as a contender - but only at the cost of some significant limitations on his ability to emerge at the head of the pack. And it's an open question whether Weir's current messages have much chance of winning over additional members, or whether he'll have to change course significantly to reach out beyond his immediate pool of support.