Monday, October 02, 2006

Gerard will crown the next leader

Wow, what a weekend! I've tried to sit back and watch the weekend unfold, keeping an eye on the results as they come in and chuckling at the spin coming out of the various camps, and the backing-off as pictures shifted.

Now that things are pretty much set (there's still mail-in ballots to be counted, LPCBC counts on Wednesday) I think it's safe to weigh in with some thoughts. Forgive the length, but I've been holding it in all weekend.

First of all, there are only four people left in this race now. Actually, three, but I'll get to that in a bit. But really, the rest of the candidates, while they may stay on for the first ballot, are now not contenders. I hope Martha-Hall Findlay stays on for Montreal; I'd like to see her have a chance to address the convention.

Now before getting to my guy, I'd like to touch on the other three.

Michael Ignatieff

Michael finished with just under 30 per cent, roughly inline with his camps attempts at lowering expectations over the past few weeks but short of the slam-dunk he needed to have ended this race here and now. Can he grow? He'll get a boost from a very strong chunk of the ex-officio vote (ironic that a "renewal" candidate has the bulk of the party establishment behind him), but it remains an open question if he can grow enough to put him over 50 per cent. As Peter Donolo said in the Globe this morning, "garnering the next 20 per cent will be much more difficult than the first 30 per cent." Clearly though, Iggy remains the favourite, and the only question is who will face him on the final ballot.

Bob Rae

Bob put in a solid performance to finish second, ten per cent back of Ignatieff and about three per cent up on Kennedy and Dion. Not bad for just a few months as a Liberal. I was surprised at his strong showing in B.C., where he was the leader with nearly 30 per cent of the vote. The Ontario numbers aside don't believe the spin that Rae being well back of Ignatieff is a disappointment. He never was neck and neck with Iggy; that was a media creation and Iggy spin to lower expectations and take the heat off their guy. Anyway, while Bob had a strong showing where they know him best though, Ontario, the former Premier finished a disappointing third to Iggy and Kennedy. With growing Ontario so important to the next election, I suspect Liberals will be giving Bob's Ontario baggage second thoughts. Warren Kinsella had an amusing, and also relevant, comment here over the weekend: "…there's a reason why Bob Rae is strongest in Newfoundland and BC. It's because they are the furthest points from Ontario."

Gerard Kennedy

As I said a few months back, reports of Gerard's death were greatly exaggerated. He has a top notch organization and a lot of very savy political operators in his camp, and it showed with a very (nearly) impressive performance finishing in third, just a few delegates up on Dion. He's just one per cent back of Iggy in Ontario, leads in Alberta (the CalgaryGrit factor no doubt), was strong too in B.C. and did reasonably well across the rest of the country. His Achilles heel, though, is Quebec, where he only managed less than two per cent of the vote. After all the talk from his camp about his improving French and summering in Quebec, this will be hard to spin away. If he had managed even 10 per cent he'd be in an incredibly enviable position. But we need Quebec, and Gerard just has too much ground to overcome there between now and the next election. Clearly, though, Gerard has proven himself as the bright young rising star of the Liberal Party, and the clear favourite for the next time.

Stephane Dion

I can, with all honesty, say I am very pleased with Stephane's performance. Who would have believed, back after the election in late January, that he would be here? He has exceeded expectations and come from nowhere to have a serious chance at the crown, and I couldn't be happier with his positioning going forward. He put in solid numbers across the country, showing not overwhelming but solid cross-Canada support. Some are trying to spin his Ontario numbers as disappointing; I'd be lying if didn’t say I'd have liked them to be higher. Heck, I'd have liked him to win every delegate everywhere. But let's be serious, of the top seven delegates he was the only one not from Ontario. Up against the popular frontrunner from Ontario, a popular former Ontario cabinet minister and a former Ontario Premier, Stephane finished with a very respectable 10.3 per cent. Against so many local favourtites, not to mention Volpe's Toronto organizational strength and Dryden's Leafs Nation, that's no disappointment. Then there's Quebec. More amusing spin here, as the same people that called Dion an unelectable pariah in Quebec spin it as a disappointment that he didn't carry the province. An amusing contradiction there. Stephane finished a solid second with 29.3 per cent, which should put the question of his popularity in his own province to bed. (Worth noting among the Quebec electorate he polls higher than all other candidates, and the LPC too.) Another interesting fact: combine Stephane and Bob's vote and over 52 per cent of Quebec Liberals voted for candidates that don't want to reopen the constitutional can of worms. Given that Stephane came to his position with conviction, not political expediency, I like his positioning there going forward.

Going Forward

As I said earlier, Iggy will be on the last ballot. The question is who will he face? Unsurprisingly, I think it will be Stephane, but let me tell you why.

We are a party that needs renewal, and that needs to be united. Of the top four candidates, there are only two that I haven't heard people say they're going to leave the party if they get elected leader. I don't have much time for people that take such attitudes (Volpe haters excepted), but that's not a factor to be dismissed when considering where support will go. They're also the two candidates with the least party establishment backing and so best positioned to be agents of change.

With Bob's Ontario baggage shown still to be a factor and his growth potential limited, that leaves Gerard and Stephane. As I've said I like Gerard, but I don't think he can overcome the handicap of his poor Quebec showing. With a solid showing across the country, a respectable showing in Ontario and a very strong placing in Quebec, not to mention his acknowledged "everyone's second choice" status, I think Stephane is clearly poised to do battle with Ignatieff on the final ballot.

In the end, though, much will depend on Gerard. While I don't think he can win this time he does have the opportunity to be the kingmaker. Where he throws his support will go a long ways in determining who the next Liberal leader is.

Naturally, I'd like to see him support Stephane. I think it is a natural fit though. It would allow him to tap into a Quebec organization to begin building his one weak point for next time, and moreover in a Dion cabinet he could be the senior Ontario minister and a true partner in the great history of the Liberal Party, a position he couldn't get in a Rae or Ignatieff cabinet. Politics aside though, I think they have the most in common policy-wise and philosophy wise, and it's a natural fit.

Two more months to go, I'm sure it won't be boring!

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Anonymous said...

It is highly unlikely that Gerard will go to Stephane.


Jeff said...

Well, your well reasoned, thoughtful argument convinced me anon. I've seen the error of my thinking. Well done.

Anonymous said...

Rae cannot win the majority of delegates from Ontario.

Kennedy cannot win the majority of delegates from Quebec.

Paul Wells (and you) were absolutely right its two professors on last ballot.

Ted Betts said...

So the question is:

If Kennedy goes over to Rae and Dion is third on the second to last ballot, will Dion go to Rae and, if he does, how many can he reasonably be expected to bring with him?

If Kennedy goes over to Dion and Rae is third on the second to last ballot, will Rae go to Dion and, if he does, how many can he reasonably be expected to bring with him?

I frankly think that there is a 50/50 chance all each of those questions. Kennedy is as likely to go Dion as he is Rae; Dion is as likely to go Ignatieff as he is Rae; Rae is as likely to go Ignatieff as he is Dion.

More importantly, in each case, there will be a lot of bleeding of support. Rae's, Dion's, Dryden's supporters in particular have not been campaigning with him for years and are not going to feel the need to follow their candidate as much as past campaigns, especially if they sense they can help put Ignatieff over the top.

Michael Fox said...

Bear in mind that virtually all of the Brison people are likely to go to Ignatieff. That's not a small number.

DivaRachel said...

The same people who said, months ago, that Kennedy's campaign was doomed, are the same people who say his Quebec-deficit is unsurmountable. After the Super Weekend Results, I think you should think twice before counting Kennedy out.


Hmm you seem to be standing on your head looking at the figures. It is Rae and Kennedy who have gained this weekend Dion has stalled. But that does make him Kingmaker, as I have blogged.

Psychols said...

You made fun of spin in an earlier post yet this post is nothing but spin. I support Dion, but it is foolish to argue that fourth place is where he needs to be right now. Your argument is based solely upon your conviction that the other candidates have insurmountable difficulties. That remains to be seen.

Why have you no use for Liberals who would leave the party if a specific candidate wins? These are people who place principle above party.

Anonymous said...

Well The Liberals need a leader who has a chance to win with ordinary Canadians. Rae and Ignatieff have baggage big-time. Speaking as an ordinary Canadian who isn't a Liberal or any other type of partisan hack.

Hell, Dryden would be be the best choice if Liberals really gave a shat about ordinary people anymore.

Mac Norbert

Anonymous said...

It was "sickening" to watch Rae on TV sucking up to Kennedy by patting Kennedy's kids on the back and telling them to be proud of their daddy - in fact, Kennedy looked rather uncomfortable - on purpose or really was I don't know but it made me sick.

Now allegations are running rampant about Ignatieff and Dion doing dirty tricks and blocking voters - does this never stop?

Kennedy isn't quite ready to be leader of the party but in a few years watch out. Who he sides with will leave a reflection on him, especially in Ontario. It is for me anyway. If Rae, there may not be anything credible left for the party when he finishes with it.

Another disturbing thing are the bloggers who only spout out bad things about other candidates that are not their choice. Most try to do some examining of issues and policies but others, like John Lennard (Rae supporter)only bring out the bad about the others. It would be nice if he could see something nice even small about the other candidates. This is cheezy.

Jeff said...

Indeed Ted, the question with any candidate crossing over to another is how many of their supporters come over with them. I suspect it will have much to do with why the candidate makes their move, but certaintly it will be quite fluid. That goes for everyone.

Diva I didn't count him out before, and while I don't like his chances things could still change. Tell me though, how do you think he can overcome the Quebec numbers?

Euegene, you seem to misunderstand the process. This wasn't multiple ballots over the weekend or multiple rounds, people voted at different times accross the country, and the results were merely reported in realtime. To attribute some kind of momentum or growth to the numbers as they came in over the weekend is inaccurate and meaningless. What needs to be examined is the numbers in their entirety, and the regional breakdowns.

Psychols, the line between opinion and spin is a fine one. Is there an element of spin in my post? No doubt. My bias is clear, that can't help but colour my thinking. But I honestly believe in my analysis, and I explained in detail how I arrived at it. That's what seperates opinion from spin.

Is fourth where he needs to be right now? I didn't say that. Phycologically I'd prefer he was in third, but is just a few delegates behind Gerard. Heck, I'd rather he be in first, but I'm realistic. I was honest about his Ontario numbers, but I think it's acceptable. My analysis is that he's got a good shot. So do Bob and Michael, Gerard a bit less so but stranger things have happened.

As for not having time for people that say they'll abandon ship if Rae or Iggy wins, they're entitled to their opinions and I'm entitled not to like their opinions. Are they really valuing principle over party? Perhaps so, in some cases. In other cases, I'd wager not. But I'd like to think the party is bigger than it's leader. Anyway, my point was we can't cater such people but what theyll do and its impact shouldn't be ignored when judging how things will work out.

Lolly said...

Principle above party ! I believe that I am a principled person and a Liberal. I do get tired of hearing people who say they are out of here "the Party" if Bob Rae,or Michael Ignatieff becomes Leader. I think that behaviour is not principled, it sounds more like I don't like this game because I'm losing so I'll take my stuff and go home. It is whining ! Quitting is not principled.

Oxford County Liberals said...

Actually Psychols, I expect Dion will finish 3rd once the last 60 ridings come in.

There are 18 ridings left in Quebec - Dion will grab a good chunk of those, and he will get numbers from the remaining ridings elsewhere - particularly BC and Ontario. Gerard will not however get many delegates in the Quebec ridings - if any - so I dont think I'd be pegging Dion for 4th just yet. I realize Jeff pooh-poohs the psychological effect of being 3rd when obly a few delegates separate the 2.. but I do think its important for perspective.

Steve V said...

Good analysis Jeff. My only quibble is your contention that Dion did well in Quebec. Dion's baggage in Quebec wouldn't show up in a poll of strong federalists would it? Why wouldn't Dion do well in his home province, amongst partisans? I'm not overwhelmed with Dion in Quebec, considering who was voting and there were only three players all along. Did Dion do poorly? No, but I don't think it particularly impressive either.

Jeff said...

Steve, a few things on Quebec. The first thing, I think it's amusing that those (not you) that were telling us Dion was the devil in Quebec are now telling us its a disapointment he didn't sweep the province.

I don't think the LPCQ is reflective of the Quebec populace. Polling shows that Dion polls well ahead of all the other candidates, and the LPC itself, amongst Quebec voters. So Dion would do even better in a general election in Quebec; according to the polling, better than the other guys.

So why was he second to Iggy then? I touched on this in my Frulla post last week, but I think there's a divide in the LPC on how to approach the separtism issue, and the establishment of the LPCQ tends to come down much more on the side of the view expressed by Iggy then on the side of the view expressed by Dion, and so organized hard for Iggy.

Also, Rae and Dion split the no-constitiutional opening vote. Add up their vote and its over 50 per cent rejecting that option.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that Brison's support will necessarily go over to Ignatieff. If you look at it, Brison is running a strong environmental, social justice and economic platform which is a lot more like Dion's than Ignatieff's. Personally, as a Dion supporter, I wouldn't mind having Brison in Cabinet either. Dion is committed to having environmental Ministers in every Ministry and Brison seems to fit the bill pretty well.

Penelope Persons said...

As a Brison supporter, I agree with Jeremy. I doubt very much that Brison will flirt with Iggy. Brison supported the UN/NATO mandate in Afghanistan and Canada's original role, but not the combat mission. And he certainly did not support the illegal invasion of Iraq!

Dion has always been a much better fit, since - apart from the Afghanistan human rights issue - their platforms have been almost identical from the beginning.

Brison won't be a king maker. There will have to be some major decisions among Dion, Rae and Kennedy as to who should be handed that job... At least one of those guys is going to have to give up his dream if they want to stop Iggy.

And somehow, I don't think it will be Rae. My gut feeling/woman's intuition is that there is bad blood there, and Rae wants to beat the pants off Iggy for personal as well as political reasons.

Zac said...

At least one of those guys is going to have to give up his dream if they want to stop Iggy.

The question though, is why would they want to stop Iggy? Just for the sake of stopping him?

There are legit reasons for not wanting Ignatieff to be leader, I understand that but being in front is certainly not one of them in my estimation.

Anonymous said...

And its all in the timing. Interesting that your spin tells Kennedy to give up the dream and join Dion... If, as one subscribes, the final total DSM total puts the Quebec professor in 3rd, then you've got a legitimate theory. If Rae and 3rd were extremely close and Rae (my guy,by the way) thought his growth potential was not enuf to get ahead of Mikey, it would be possible to see him pull a Svend and back Dion/Kennedy. Tho it's unlikely.
Ted's question is most interesting. Now will be the time for bridge building, while investigating the pillars... I can't say who of Dion or Kennedy should give it up, but I believe Ignatieff's best card is that Dion and Kennedy are so close -- likely putting them in a push and pull battle to convince the other to surrender the cause. The best thing going for a possible Rae or Dion force is that Kennedy has proven time and again to be a supreme team player. But he's now sitting in McGinty's position and may be thinking from that perspective.

Jeff said...

Burl, if Kennedy had only managed to put up semi-resectable numbers it would be a very different story. With even 7 to 10 per cent in Quebec he'd have to be the favourite to be on the final ballot, and the pressure would be very heavy on Dion to move after the first ballot. But the one per cent showing in Quebec, in my opinion, is a death knell in the LPC. The symblolism to anglo voters is too huge.

Jeff said...

JNP, I really don't see how you can say Dion's 10 per cent in Ontario is comparitively worse than Gerards one per cent in Quebec.

While I would have liked to have seen Dion do (much) better in Ontario, it bears remembering he and Brison were the only non-Ontario candidates. He was up against a field of native sons (and one daughter), including a former premier, provincial cabinet minister, the frontrunner himself and the former maple leafs president. Given all that, he did pretty good.

In Quebec, it's not quite right to say he is unknown. He campaigned heavily there, spent the summer there to learn French. Remember the voters were Liberal members, and he had seven months for them to get to know him. They took a good look.