With the entry of Bob Rae to the Liberal leadership race today, the field is filling up. I am trying to follow it (I find this blog aggregating site very helpful) and think it will be an interesting race, but the outcome for the moment mystifies me. For what it is worth here are some of my views so far:
1. I don’t think Rae has a chance. His negative baggage alone will defeat him but I also think he has terrible political judgment. For example, why did he wait until just a few weeks ago to join the party he hopes to lead, especially if he has been thinking about it for some time? He will be hurt also by his association with the Chrétien crowd who many see as bearing a significant share of blame for the defeat in January.
2. Michael Ignatieff is getting a great deal of media attention but I suspect his lack of political experience and his patrician biography will cost him support as time goes on. You can see some of his strengths and more of his weaknesses on display in this description of a meeting with local Liberals in Hamilton.
3. My impression is that Gerard Kennedy is doing well. For example, see here and here. I would guess that Kennedy is the candidate the NDP would least like to see take the prize, especially with his food bank biography and left of centre reputation. However, if he is really the micro-manager he is reputed to be, that will cause its greatest damage once he becomes leader, and even more so if he becomes PM.
4. Ken Dryden has had no impact thus far but has enormous potential. As the goaltender for Team Canada 1972, he is the best known among the public. He is the tortoise to Michael Ignatieff’s hare. A marketer’s dream, he could be the candidate the Conservatives fear most. For example, how would one attack a genuine Canadian hero?
5. I would not underestimate the potential of Stephane Dion. He may not win but could wind up commanding a big block of delegates simply because he commands intellectual respect.
6. The rules for this convention were shaped by the Martin crew and their thinking reflected paranoia that the Chrétienites would somehow outfox them in the 2003 leadership race. This gives an advantage to skilled Martin organizers such as Joe Volpe, who would otherwise be just another also ran. But his organizational clout alone could give him enough delegates to wield considerable influence on the eventual outcome.
7. There are others who could impress including Scott Brison and even Martha Hall Findlay. I think both Brison and Rae will be hurt by their status as recent converts and the presence of more than one in the race makes this a greater liability for both.
8. I don’t know what to make of Bevilacqua, but I think Carolyn Bennett’s candidacy is simply not believable.
As a multi-ballot convention, I have no doubt there will more interesting wheeling and dealing than we have seen in a Canadian political convention in the last couple of decades.