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Tuesday, September 02, 2014 04:47 AM

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Handicapping NDP Race

Political predictions are problematic at the best of times, but given the complicated voting structure, this weekend's NDP leadership convention is ripe for surprise. That said, the most likely scenario appears to be a Mulcair victory, for a number of reasons. Perhaps as compelling as the eventual winner, who will emerge as the primary alternative, or is the field so muddled that no "stop Mulcair" option can even be entertained.

The only two candidates that seem to have the slightest degree of "momentum" heading into Toronto are Mulcair and Cullen. Cullen has run a terrific campaign, his authenticity has served him well, as has a degree of boldness in his thought process. The question becomes, is the appearance of entering the "top tier" enough, moral victories aside, unless we see a very healthy first vote expression, it will all be for not in the final analysis. Should Cullen get lost within the pack chasing Mulcair, it's hard to see how subsequent votes coalesce around him, particularly when other candidates will similar potential stay on the board. Of course, all this speculations assumes more than one vote, as well as a presumption Mulcair isn't "on the cusp" after the first tally.

Nash to me has run a very bland campaign, I perceive her entering this convention flat, hard pressed to see how she emerges as a go to alternative. Ditto for Topp, although I don't think he's fallen as far as some suspect, difficult to find a winning path. Interesting here, both of these candidates represent the traditional NDP lines, pass the "purity" tests, but also a tired message in some respects. I foresee lots of pressure to drop out immediately, should either not look terribly viable. Given how many campaigns are vying for second spot, anything past third on the first vote is a certain loser, I expect to see a walk or two, with arms raised. If I'm looking for two "underperform" candidates to watch, it's Nash and Topp.

I've always liked Paul Dewar, but his campaign hasn't been terribly impressive. A good campaign, but no real spark or compelling impetus to separate from the pack. Dewar is clearly in the mix, seems to have strong pockets of support and organization, but I sense Cullen has stolen a bit of his "grassroots" thunder. Curious to see where Dewar lands, as with the others anything from second to fifth is entirely possible.

Of course, all this jockeying behind Mulcair works for Mulcair. The best case scenario after the first vote is Mulcair ahead, with a unclear picture behind him, a bunch of candidates separated by a few points. Given 70% of votes are predicted to have been cast prior to the convention, it becomes a reach to foresee a truly effective counter emerge on the floor, as we've seen in the past. Mulcair at 30% is intriguing, Mulcair at 35-37%, that range, pretty much all over. Mulcair will grow, people can scoff at Martin Singh, but he looks poised to deliver on masse, even three, four percent of delegates will have impact, when other drifting is factored in. Other candidates would kill to have a built in growth mechanism on the second ballot, so this tertiary storyline is not without consideration.

Mulcair likely wins because we can't figure out who the anti-Mulcair is, reasonable to see nobody emerge as required to upset him. However, there may very well be some "deals" in play that only manifest on the floor, but even here this probably involves two campaigns working in tandem to support a third, given the pre-vote, this type of scenario really the only viable, effective option.

Where is Mulcair on the first ballot? Is there any separation on the first ballot, or are the chasers a muddled mess? Does this format of prefrential ballots and a majority of pre-votes allow for traditional convention floor jockeying? And, most importantly, despite all the predictalbe raised hands and talk of unity when the new leader is selected, will this process leave wounds and have consequence as we move forward?

Click HERE to read more from Steve Val.
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