Thursday, May 14, 2009

Leadership 2009 - Dwain Lingenfelter Opposition Projection

For Dwain Lingenfelter's opposition projection, there's a little bit less guesswork involved than for the other candidates, as we've already seen some direct evidence as to how he plans to handle the Wall government. But there's still room for some further predictions based on how the leadership campaign has progressed.

On the party-building side, there's little doubt that Lingenfelter's support base would be kept at work trying to expand the NDP's reach. But there are still a couple of question as to what the NDP might look like a couple of years from now.

First off, it's not clear how much of Lingenfelter's early-campaign talk about party renewal will actually be put into practice, particularly when he's largely let it fall by the wayside since the leadership campaign started heating up. So while a Lingenfelter-led NDP would presumably see increased membership and a rebuilt traditional political machine, there's some uncertainty as to whether or not that machine will be modernized for a new era of politics.

Secondly, there's a huge question mark as to whether Lingenfelter will seek to engage party members who have been involved in other leadership camps, or whether he'll exert control over the party by surrounding himself only with leadership supporters. It would seem fairly obvious from my standpoint that the latter option would both reinforce the attacks which Lingenfelter surely knows will come from the Sask Party and constrict the enthusiasm of current NDP supporters to take up his side - but there's reason for concern that the view might look different from the front-runner's seat.

As for Lingenfelter's handling of the Sask Party, we know pretty well already what to expect. Lingenfelter's connections within the province will serve him well in gathering up every potentially embarrassing tidbit on Wall and company, and Lingenfelter himself has shown no hesitation in throwing those concerns at Wall with gusto. Which means that Lingenfelter's time in opposition would figure to involve a constant stream of well-publicized issues, potentially offering the NDP's best chance of putting a dent in Wall's image.

Of course, that strategy does carry some downsides as well. In particular, Lingenfelter has primarily zeroed in on personal and procedural issues which offer a steady diet of questions for easy public presentation, rather than emphasizing broad differences in vision and policy. But that message only figures to go so far if the province is still doing well generally by the time the 2011 election rolls around, as a two-year span doesn't offer a lot of time to build up government fatigue in the absence of any major scandals.

Moreover, even if Lingenfelter succeeds in casting a cloud over the Sask Party, it's not hard to anticipate Wall responding by effectively encouraging a message of "they're all the same" which would favour the incumbents. And the Sask Party doesn't seem to be lacking for enthusiasm of its own in trying to tar Lingenfelter and the NDP with that narrative or worse - which makes sense since it largely reinforces the themes which worked for Wall in 2007.

So while Lingenfelter looks to be fairly well-positioned to hit the ground running and end Wall's extended honeymoon period, it's less clear that he'll be the candidate best positioned to present a strong alternative.

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