Tuesday, March 05, 2013

#skndpldr Candidate Review - Trent Wotherspoon

Let's close out my series of candidate reviews with a look at Trent Wotherspoon.

At the start of the campaign, Wotherspoon's campaign looked to have plenty of room for variance in multiple directions.

On the upside, his flashy and well-attended launch and early spending spree raised the prospect that he might be able to position himself too far ahead of his competitors for anybody else to catch up. But on the downside, he also faced questions about his ability to deal with tough challenges, as well as a risk that he might take on negative impressions due to the perception of a candidate with ties to Dwain Lingenfelter following a similar shock-and-awe path to victory.

In retrospect, all of the questions about Wotherspoon look overblown. He's generally held his own in the leadership debates both when challenged directly and in testing his competitors, and he's kept up his friendly persona throughout the race. But he also hasn't given much indication of building up a particularly large following as the campaign has progressed, meaning that he doesn't figure to be able to pile supporters onto a bandwagon based on an aura of inevitability.

As a result, Wotherspoon is finishing the race much where he started it, only without the room for sudden shifts. He's still near the head of the pack when it comes to the HOAG factor, but without a lot of evidence that his ease in connecting with all kinds of people has translated into a large number of committed volunteers; he's still slightly behind his fellow candidates when it comes to detailed policy discussion, but he's built up a few signature issues with the potential to resonate among the NDP's base and the general public.

Given the composition of the race as it now stands, it looks unlikely that Wotherspoon can emerge on top even if the three candidates are close to evenly matched on the first ballot. So what have we learned about Wotherspoon during the leadership campaign that could determine his ideal role within the NDP in the years to come?

Well, Wotherspoon has consistently included listening among his top priorities. And while he's proposed regular caucus listening tours as one of his main promises, I'd think his personal comfort as an ambassador for the NDP might offer an alternative.

If the party can increase its outreach by having both a new leader and Wotherspoon engaged in regular visits around the province, it figures to be in a much better position to connect with a wider audience and develop regular activity in a greater range of communities. And so the NDP's next leader may be best served to test whether Wotherspoon is interested in continuing his relentless touring schedule even after the leadership campaign comes to an end.

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