Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Liberal Leadership

On the occasion of Maurizio Bevilacqua’s withdrawal from the liberal leadership race, here are some predictions.

1. There will be no surprises. One of the four perceived frontrunners (Dion, Ignatieff, Kennedy, Rae) will win.

2. It’ll probably be Ignatieff or Kennedy.

3. Ignatieff wins if he can overcome his association with the war in Iraq (his fumbling on the war in Lebanon doesn’t bode well for this).

4. Kennedy wins if Ignatieff can’t overcome this, or if there is a strong enough anyone-but-Ignatieff vote, or if Rae fairs poorly in the first ballot and drops out to support him, as the other leading left-progressive candidate.

5. Rae wins only if Kennedy does poorly early on. Unlikely, in my view--Rae is likely to be be dragged by his status as a fence-jumper, and by the ghost of Rae Days. Bevilacqua's support cuts both ways, insofar as it brings in a small number of outside supporters, but risks alienating progressives because of Bevilacqua's right-leaning program.

6. Dion wins only if there is a need for a consensus candidate after several ballots. The advantage of his status as the only Quebecois candidate is dulled by his attachment to the Clarity Act.

7. Anyone else wins only if there is a need for a consensus candidate and none of the four frontrunners will do for some reason. This is quite unlikely in my view, but if it happens it’ll be Dryden, who has a clean record and a warm public image. Anyone else is pretty much in it to network at the convention at this point.

8. It'll probably be Kennedy, in the end. He is, quite simply, the frontrunner with the least baggage, and has momentum at the moment. Being a provincial Liberal makes him at once an outsider and an insider to the federal party. He represents a clean break for the party, an appeal to young voters, and an oppoartunity to snag NDP votes. None of the other three have his balance of electoral advantages without hindrances to match.

A more interesting question is what happens if the Liberals don’t win the next election. The new leader could become unpopular easily (none of these guys are exactly stars, barring Ignatieff marginally). The real prize might go to the runner up—the chance to enter the next leadership race with an edge.
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