Saturday, November 26, 2011

Leadership 2012 Candidate Rankings - November 26, 2011

Last weekend, I mentioned my intention to introduce NDP leadership rankings. Before getting to the rankings themselves, though, let's make clear exactly what the below is intended to reflect.

First, unlike Ian Capstick's survey, I'm not making any effort yet to determine who figures to do the best on becoming leader, only to sort out who has the best chance of winning the opportunity. (I'll wait until much later to make an endorsement to try to answer the "who's best?" question.)

Second, while the rankings are intended to reflect the best chances of winning the March 25 leadership vote, a huge range of outcomes is possible at this point - both based on the amount of time and exposure left in the race, and the many permutations involved in a multiple-ballot vote. I won't be guessing at percentages by candidate this time out, but in a field with such a large number of credible candidates I wouldn't see any single contestant as having more than maybe a 35-40% chance of winning from where we stand now. So a #1 ranking isn't exactly a prediction of success - nor does a ranking toward the bottom suggest a candidate is out of the race, only that more factors have to break right to allow for a win.

With that in mind, here's my first ranking of the leadership contenders based solely on their likelihood of winning the March 25 vote...

1. Thomas Mulcair

Yes, he's faced some backlash within both the media and the party. But Mulcair is still the most-recognized name in the race, with loads of popularity in his home province and a reasonably strong organization elsewhere - meaning that the main question for Mulcair is whether he can win enough down-ballot support to add to what looks like the strongest first-ballot position.

2. Peggy Nash

The big question for Nash remains her ability to connect with the NDP's new Quebec supporters - and as a result her performance in French in the debates may be key to her candidacy. But a base of support from labour and the GTA was always a potent combination, and Nash has added to that with big names and activists alike to position herself as one of the top contenders.

3. Paul Dewar

At the outset of the race I didn't see how Dewar would be able to overcome the lack of an obvious natural constituency other than by making a general personality-based appeal. But he appears to be well down that road, earning plaudits for his early policy talk and garnering a decent amount of media attention without any negative reaction that I've seen.

4. Brian Topp

As I've noted before, Topp's early-campaign media splash was exactly what he needed to join the top tier of candidates and earn a serious chance to win over supporters. But I haven't seen much indication that he's made much progress since that successful launch - and while he's fairly well positioned to win later-ballot support, that won't help much if he can't stay ahead of Dewar and Nash in early rounds of voting.

5. Romeo Saganash

Saganash still looks to have as much chance as anybody to wow NDP members as the campaign goes on. But he's already made one misstep with a walk-back on the effects of a sovereignty referendum, and will need to find the right balance between conveying a personal and transformational message and making sure that his relatively limited exposure is positive enough to win members over.

6. Niki Ashton

Ashton has run a relatively strong campaign, and would likely finish higher than this ranking on a first ballot today. But even if she can push into the upper half of the field, she'll face an extra challenge in trying to get down-ballot voters to look at the positives of her age rather than ruling her out (however unfairly) - resulting in her having a slightly tougher road to the leadership than the contenders above her.

7. Robert Chisholm

He's well-liked by all accounts and has earned some significant endorsements. But it's hard to see how Chisholm can find the time to simultaneously learn enough French to hold his own in the debates starting just next week, and reach enough of the country to build from a relatively low profile.

8. Nathan Cullen

Cullen's proposal for cooperation with the Liberals was always a high-risk, high-reward choice. But so far the result looks to have been far more downside than upside: plenty of diehard NDP members have moved Cullen to the bottom of their lists as a result, while there isn't yet much evidence of an influx of new members seeking to back Cullen's proposal. Which means that while Cullen might figure to finish a spot or two higher on the first ballot, his potential for growth is severely limited.

9. Martin Singh

I'll give full credit to Singh for showing some organizational strength in various regions of the country, and I wouldn't rule out his moving up this list as the campaign progresses. But for now his lack of name recognition still looks to be a tougher hurdle than any of Singh's competitors are facing.


  1. Sure hope you are right about Mulcair.   He is a proven fighter for the environment, and his strong personality is exactly what is needed to take on Harper.