Sunday, July 30, 2017

Leadership 2017: The Role of Endorsements

In previous leadership links posts, I've highlighted a few endorsements which have struck me as particularly significant. That said, I haven't tried to compile anything approaching a comprehensive list.

To put the past endorsements in context, I'll take a moment for now to look more broadly at where the endorsement count currently stands - and why there are only a small number of future endorsements which would figure to have much impact on the campaign.

I've previously commented on the role of endorsements, with particular emphasis on the initial threshold for candidate viability. On that front, any notable lack of people willing to publicly declare support for a candidate is surely a red flag for a campaign.

Fortunately, all four remaining candidates have long since passed the point of any concern: all have supporters both among current or recent caucus members, and among key NDP constituencies.

The other primary effect of endorsements is then to serve as a show of momentum during the course of the campaign.

Endorsements in general provide both a positive piece of news for a candidate, and validation for anybody considering supporting the candidate. (Mind you, Peter Julian's withdrawn candidacy offers a stark example of the limitations of endorsements alone.)

Of course, endorsers can do much more to advance a candidate's campaign than just lend their name to a press release. And that's where the depth and quality of support among the declared endorsers may be more important than their quantity.

Meanwhile, an endorsement may also carry disproportionate weight based on the identity of the endorser.

There are a few people whose endorsements (particularly coupled with a strong push to recruit and persuade members) could make a significant difference to any candidate. There's a reason why Charlie Angus went out of his way to treat Ed Broadbent's attendance at an event as a show of support, and other party "saints" (to use the term thrown around by Robin Sears among others) would also have a substantial impact by lending their support to one candidate over the others. And to the extent Julian and any substantial number of his supporters end up agreeing on a potential leader, that could send a strong signal as to the preference of the party's Quebec caucus and activists.

A somewhat larger number of people might be able to move the needle by making an endorsement which is seen as counterintuitive, encouraging members to see a candidate differently by signalling support from unexpected corners. Among the areas to watch on that front might be prominent supporters for Angus from francophone Quebec, or people perceived as party establishment figures getting behind Guy Caron or Niki Ashton.

Missing from that list is any possible support for Jagmeet Singh. And there's a reason for that: as the latest entrant in the race and lone candidate from outside the federal caucus, he's already been the beneficiary of the widest range of endorsements so far, covering substantially all of the bases which could otherwise have been seen as potential weak points.

That means Singh has less to prove than his competitors in terms of winning future endorsements. But it also means the marginal impact of new support is likely to be somewhat reduced. And if the campaign is going to shift from its current alignment, a wave of endorsements in another direction might be important as either a cause or an effect.

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