I'll have plenty more to add in later posts about the opportunities the Saskatchewan NDP holds under Cam Broten's leadership. But before this weekend's convention is too far in the rear-view mirror, I'll take a few minutes to assess my own analysis of the leadership campaign.
And I'd like to think I had my share of successes.
My first-ballot best guess numbers were closer to pegging the candidates' positioning than any other poll or source, getting within 3% of each of the candidates' support levels. And my first-ballot analysis was on target in identifying exactly what Cam Broten needed to accomplish to have a chance on the second ballot - even if I underestimated his likelihood of managing to leapfrog Ryan Meili.
But therein lies the rub: I failed to account appropriately for what proved to be the deciding factor, even after identifying Broten's potential down-ballot appeal as his biggest strength from day one. So where did I go wrong in expecting Meili to hold enough down-ballot support to win based on the first-ballot results?
My working assumption is that I failed to account for an "I like him, but..." factor.
For all the post-campaign spin about a divided party, all indications I've seen are to the effect that each of the leadership candidates was broadly liked by a range of NDP members extending well beyond his immediate supporters. And Meili in particular stood out on that front, with at least one internal poll placing his net favourability rating at +67%.
It then didn't seem plausible to me that an electorate where a strong majority of members even outside of Meili's supporters had a positive view of him would line up strongly against him on a second ballot. (And that went doubly when his second-ballot opponent had been tagged with a marginally higher "will not support" number, and when an army of volunteers was at the ready to chase down the vote of anybody with a marginally positive impression of Meili.)
But ultimately, there is a difference between liking a candidate personally, and actually casting a ballot for him. And Broten looks to have convinced a substantial number of voters who have a favourable view of Meili generally to throw their support elsewhere in choosing their party's leader.
In retrospect, there were some signs which I could have taken into account in seeing that as a possibility - including some actual second-choice data and Broten's slight improvement on my expectations for the first ballot. And indeed, both campaigns look to have been far closer to the mark than I was in assessing the meaning of the first-ballot outcome.
So my takeaway from the just-concluded campaign is this: as much as the HOAG factor matters, a modest lead in favourability may not matter much at all when party members face a one-time vote.