As I mentioned in offering my endorsement, Ryan Meili has managed to cover all of the most important bases for a leadership candidate over the course of the campaign. On the first primary question as to what vision he'd present for the party and the province, Meili always held an advantage based on the thought he's put into his book - and he's had no trouble defending that vision or applying it to all kinds of policy discussions.
But Meili has also been highly effective on the organizational front - eventually leading the way in fund-raising and volunteer activity, while also unveiling the most creative and detailed platform. And it's particularly noteworthy that he's reached that position as the last entrant into the race, and after making a conscious choice to get a late start on the policy front.
In other words, Meili has provided the most obvious example as to how the NDP can expand its existing reach. Meili himself has managed to move well beyond his already-strong showing on all fronts from 2009, and his campaign has proven the most adept at adding new members and integrating them into an existing plan.
But that strength shouldn't be taken to say that Meili doesn't have some room left to grow as a spokesperson and face of a party. His contributions to the candidate debates have remained far stronger in substance than in style - and his "inside voice" particularly looms as an area for improvement given the need to be able to rally ever larger crowds as the NDP builds its strength.
And while he's managed to emerge ahead of his competitors, there's still work to be done in continuing that growth past the leadership campaign - particularly given that his two remaining competitors seem to have managed to hold their own following Meili's emergence as the front-runner.
Ultimately, though, if the most important question facing a leadership candidate is whether he can keep up what's worked during the leadership campaign, that looks to bode well for his future prospects.
Mind you, I don't take for granted that a Meili victory is set in stone. So what would be the ideal role for him aside from party leader?
My guess is that Meili would be mentioned again as a leading candidate to lead the NDP's next policy review process. But if he were to lose to Broten (which looks like the most plausible outcome other than a Meili victory), it will be difficult to claim that there's much doubt what Broten will want the NDP's immediate policy to look like. And Meili's creative thinking could probably be put to better use than wordsmithing existing policies.
With that in mind, I'd suggest that if Meili doesn't win the leadership, his best alternative role might be a bit more specialized. Rather than being charged policy development generally, he'd be ideally suited to lead a "skunkworks" policy development team - tasked with thinking up (or seeking out) and developing innovative ideas which need further work before being formally incorporated into party policy, but which might serve to meaningfully expand the political playing field if they find sufficient support.
That said, the combination of principle, flexible thought and organizational skills which might make that a potential role for Meili also looks to form an ideal mix for the NDP's next leader - particularly when added to Meili's ease in winning over new supporters. And so I'll be hoping to see him emerge on top at next weekend's convention.