Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Liberal leadership race in the dog days of August

Finally, a real development this week in the Liberal leadership. Maurizio Bevilacqua dropped out and supported Rae. I found this puzzling, except for a reference in a Toronto Star profile of St├ęphane Dion to Rae being one of the front runners, my impression has been that he is well back. The logical explanation for Bevilacqua’s support of Rae is that Greg Sorbara, the Ontario Finance Minister who has supported Rae from the outset and who represents the same constituency as Bevilacqua provincially, played a key role in winning his support. There is only speculation to this effect but it makes sense.

The race is opaque, and in a sense still wide open. It will largely be determined by the views of existing Liberal members but it is by no means clear what those views are. I say existing members because they are a larger group than the new members and significantly more likely to turn out at the constituency meetings to elect delegates that will be held at the end of September. Events could strongly influence choices between now and then. I spoke to one new Liberal on Sunday at a wedding who was just beginning to make up her mind.

So what do we know? Not much. There was a straw vote at an Ontario Young Liberal Convention in July. I found the outcome a bit surprising in that the front runners were more dominant than I had expected. The results were:

Ignatieff 30.8%
Kennedy 30.7%
Dion 11.5%
See the discussion here.

This outcome does correspond roughly to my impression of the current order of the race. I suspect that Rae is in fourth place but a long way back, and I continue to see numerous references to the view that his unpopular tenure as Ontario Premier counts heavily against him. I think his lateness in joining the Liberals also matters a great deal. At a minimum he should have at least bought a party card a year ago, not just before entering the race, if he was so enthusiastic about being Liberal leader.

The only other objective measure I can find so far is the number of blog endorsements. Although Dion is barely ahead of Kennedy and Ignatieff in this regard, I don’t think the numbers are meaningful except as confirmation as to who the three leading candidates are. I note that most Liberal bloggers on the page have yet to indicate a preference.

My gut hunch is that Dion will win. I can’t really justify it except to say that he doesn’t seem to have enemies. Based on Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s 1996 experience, this factor would appear to be quite important.

No comments: