Friday, September 29, 2006

Heading into the DSMs Anything Can Happen

...almost anything, at least.

This weekend will be an interesting one. It will give some camps additional rhetoric, and it will virtually sink others. In any event, a couple of things will be clear very soon.

First, it will be clear whether it's a two-horse race or a many-horse race. If Rae manages to defy expectations and come in second after the DSMs, people will continue to mobilize around him as a front-runner, and it will come down to him and Ignatieff. If, on the other hand, Kennedy comes in second by a solid margin and Rae is stuck in 3rd or 4th, that will hurt Rae substantially, and Kennedy (if his media team can handle it this time) might be able to capitalize on his success and make it a race between and Ignatieff.

As is more likely, however, Kennedy will come in second by only a narrow margin, with Dion and Rae nipping at his heels. That will still make it anyone's race.

Second, there's the question of Dryden and Brison. If they have a respectable showing, they might stay in the race in order to exercise major influence at the Convention. As is likely, however, given their limited organization on the ground, they will command limited supported, and they may decide to drop out now. They may stay in the race, but if they are far enough behind, they may throw in the towel.

Third, there's the question of whether this will make Volpe finally get it. Everyone knows he should drop out, except for maybe him. Hopefully there isn't some last minute surge of support for him...that would be a solid way to wreck the Liberal Party.

Finally, there's the Ignatieff question. There are certain margins of victory that will make it all but certain that Ignatieff will be the next leader. If he breaks 30%, for example, with the next closest contender at 16-17%, it seems almost impossible that he will not win. Of the 70% who did not vote for Ignatieff on the first ballot, less than a third (20% of the total) would have to come to him.

If, on the other hand, Ignatieff falls below about 20% or within 2-3% of the next closest contender, that may spell disaster for him. His campaign will lose momenum, and he will be hurt substantially. Given, however, Ignatieff's commanding lead in ex officio support and the massive support network that the Ignatieff campaign has across the country, I find it very hard to imagine any scenario where Ignatieff is lower than about 23-24% and his next closest rival is less than 6-7% lower.

Remember, while Rae might have gotten Bevilacqua and Bennett, Ignatieff got virtually all their ex officio supporters. Bevilacqua and Bennett might add legitimacy to Rae's campaign, but it's the MPs, riding association presidents, youth co-ordinators, and other influential Liberals who can actually bring out the vote.

So, then, what will happen? It will be probably a race between Ignatieff and one of Dion, Rae, or Kennedy; exactly which of those three it will be will should become clear by late October or early November. At that point, the muddy waters will start to clarify, and at the very least, we will probably know who the final two will be on the last ballot.

For now, however, anything can happen. And you'd better believe that when the numbers come out, the blogosphere is going to be full of different interpretations of those numbers, showing how any given candidate can emerge victorious.


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