NDP Leadership 2012


Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, 2013 OLP Leadership Race, LPC Leadership 2006, NDP Leadership 2012 | 20 Comments

The Liberal leadership race is the first real test of the supporter system, and with the cut-off to sign up and vote now passed, we have our first indication of how successful the experiment has been:


That’s over twice as many members as the NDP recruited last spring, and over 100,000 more than the highly competitive 2006 Liberal Leadership Race. It’s hard to say if this boom is due to the supporter system or Trudeaumania II, but as the following table shows, by any metric you use it’s one of the most successful leadership drives in recent memory:

Race Format Candidates Eligible Per Vote Per Pop
2013 LPC WOMOV Supporters 8 294,002 10.6% 0.9%
2013 OLP Delegated Convention 7 45,000 2.8% 0.4%
2012 NDP OMOV 7 128,351 2.9% 0.4%
2011 BQ OMOV 3 36,341 4.1% 0.5%
2011 BC Libs WOMOV 4 92,000 12.2% 2.1%
2011 AB Libs WOMOV Supporters 5 27,567 21.6% 0.8%
2009 ON PC WOMOV 4 42,000 2.9% 0.3%
2009 ON NDP OMOV 4 23,908 2.8% 0.2%
2006 LPC Delegates Convention 8 185,000 2.6% 0.6%
2004 Conservative WOMOV 3 251,000 5.7% 0.8%
2004 ON PC WOMOV 3 61,104 4.0% 0.5%

It remains to be seen how many of these supporters will actually vote, but when it comes to collecting contact information and bringing new blood into the fold, the numbers are encouraging. The Liberals signed up 0.9% of all Canadians and 10.6% of their previous election voters – both totals greatly exceeding any federal leadership race of the past decade.

Of course, huge sign-ups for the 2011 Liberal leadership races in BC and Alberta haven’t translated to electoral success, so it’s a little premature to start measuring the drapes at 24 Sussex.

But this contest appears to have given the Liberals a jolt of life, which is not always the case during a de facto coronation. Paul Martin capped his decade-long regicide in 2003 with restrictive membership rules and a process that left the party divided. The Party establishment was so enthralled with Michael Ignatieff in 2009, that they didn’t even bother giving members a say.

You can argue all you want about Trudeau’s qualifications and readiness for the job, but at the very least this is a coronation that has brought hundreds of thousands of new Liberals into the fold. Open and competitive races are no doubt more difficult on the frontrunner than hotwired acclamations, but both the party and Trudeau will be stronger in the long run because of this process.

Mulcair’s win was inevitable…but was it predictable?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics, Fun with Numb3rs, NDP Leadership 2012 | Leave a comment

PunditsGuide concludes her top notch NDP leadership coverage with the vote breakdown of advance and in-person ballots. White Nathan Cullen “won” the convention vote, Mulcair had enough support among advanced voters that he could have dropped his pants and sung La Marseillaise during his Friday night speech, and likely still carried the day.

So the question is – if a Mulcair win was inevitable, was it predictable?

I compiled a series of 9 leadership metrics in the days leading up to the convention on attributes such as fundraising, endorsements, social media, and polling data. In my mind, this was a bit of a test drive for the Liberal leadership race, since I’d like to be able to post weekly or monthly “Power Rankings” during that contest, to gauge candidate support and momentum.

So here’s how the different indicators stacked up, sorted by their correlation to the first ballot results:

Poll: 0.899
Endorsement Score: 0.869
Media mentions: 0.868
MP Endorsements: 0.860
Donations: 0.836
Twitter mentions: 0.715
Donors: 0.683
Facebook “likes”: 0.308
Twitter followers: 0.170

As has been the case in past leadership contests, polls among party members proved to be the most accurate prediction of candidate support. And remember, in this case we were dealing with a pair of month-old polls conducted by two of the leadership camps. Of the two, Mulcair’s proved to be more accurate – mainly because (surprise, surprise) Paul Dewar’s overstated his support by a factor of 2. Let that serve as a cautionary tale anytime you see an “internal” campaign poll released.

Endorsements also score well, using either a simple count of MPs, or 308.com’s more complex system. Mind you, Premier Mar and Premier Falcon will tell you how much endorsements can be worth in some contests.

Fundraising numbers were a good indicator of candidate support, though not as much as the 2003 NDP leadership contest when they had a remarkable correlation of 0.998. As has been the case with the other half dozen leadership races I’ve crunched the numbers on, the total amount raised seems to be a better predictor than the total number of donors. Goes to show money matters, even when we’re talking about socialists.

As for social media? It may play a big role in modern elections, but it’s certainly not a very good indicator of who’s in front. Language may have played a role in it, but Mulcair was 5th in terms of Facebook “likes” and was barely ahead of Niki Ashton when it came to Twitter followers.

Surprisingly enough, something as simple as the number of times a candidate is mentioned by the media proved to be just as good a predictor of support as the factors above. So while we all like to think the media has no clue what goes on during internal party contests, they were basically on the mark this time. Goes to show you there’s some truth behind what’s heard at Hy’s.

If we toss all these numbers into the regression wood hopper, the best prediction models weights endorsements, donors, polling, and media buzz about evenly, and explains 92% of the variance. That’s a good number, but my stats teachers would slap me if they saw me creating a “magic regression equation” based on 8 candidates in one leadership race. After all, each contest has its own rules and personality, and it’s foolish to think the Liberal race will look like the NDP’s.

Still, the signs that mattered most all pointed to a significant first ballot lead for Mulcair. We shouldn’t be at all surprised that’s what happened.

Mulcair Triumphs

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics, NDP Leadership 2012 | Leave a comment

Thomas Mulcair is the second ever NDP leader of the opposition after a four ballot victory yesterday morning…and afternoon…and evening.

Although Brian Topp was seen as the establishment candidate and was hyped as the early favourite, we shouldn’t be surprised that Mulcair came out on top. Since his Outremont by election win in 2007, everyone has assumed Mulcair would succeed Layton. Although he hemmed and hawed at the start of this leadership race, he was the best politician in the field, he ran a good campaign, and avoided the pratfalls that usually plague frontrunners. As a result, he was able to grow his support on each subsequent ballot – more so than Topp in fact.

As a Liberal, it’s easy to scoff after the fact and say Mulcair is beatable. Many Liberals will point to his flaws, especially after watching a very unimpressive victory speech. However, I wrote before the vote that Mulcair was the most dangerous candidate for the Liberals and that remains the case. The NDP have squarely aimed their sights on the centre of the political spectrum, and they have a polished politician to lead them there.

Final NDP Power Rankings

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The NDP crowns its next leader tomorrow, and the best we can do at this point is narrow the field down to 5 possible winners. That’s a far cry from September when the Brian Topp juggernaut was described as Martinesque.

I made my “secret Liberal memo” endorsements earlier this month, and my opinion hasn’t changed since then – I feel Mulcair is the strongest candidate, and as a partisan Liberal I’ll be rooting for Peggy Nash or Brian Topp. Or maybe Nathan Cullen, because he’s the most interesting candidate. Or maybe Paul Dewar, because that’s how I’d likely vote if my blood ran orange. Or maybe Martin Singh, because I’d sure love to see what commercial the NDP prepared for him.

As for who will win, I don’t know how many membership forms each camp sold so my best guess is nothing more than a wild guess. But here goes: I’ll predict Mulcair comes in around 30%, with Cullen in second around 20%, and Nash, Dewar, and Topp hot on his heels. Mulcair over Nash on the final ballot.

To help size the race up, here’s an update on the NDP Power Rankings – how the candidates fare in terms of fundraising, social media, endorsements, and buzz. (click for full size)

The “average share” column is simply an average of each candidate’s share of the pie on these 9 indicators. It’s by no means intended to be a predictor of first ballot support but, that said, I wouldn’t be shocked to see numbers similar to this on Saturday:

Mulcair 26%
Nash 17%
Topp 17%
Cullen 16%
Dewar 15%
Ashton 6%
Singh 3%

The momentum numbers show how these pie slices have changed over the past week and the past month – in both instances, Mulcair and Cullen are gaining the most ground. Mulcair’s gains have been primarily due to increased media attention, while Cullen has benefited from some very real gains in donations and social media support.

And this momentum is part of the reason I’ve predicted Cullen to finish second on the first ballot (that and the large number of BC NDP members). Although Cullen lags far behind on endorsements and his fundraising numbers aren’t anything to write home about, he has now matched Mulcair when it comes to the total number of donors, and leads the Facebook “like” race.

February’s Dewar poll and HosertoHoosier’s analysis of the online preferential ballot, both suggest that Cullen’s growth potential is limited, likely due to the divisiveness of his “co-operation” plan. But I expect him to raise some eyebrows when the first ballot results are read off at 10 am Saturday.

NDP Leadership Power Rankings

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in NDP Leadership 2012 | Leave a comment

Last month I looked at how NDP leadership candidates stacked up on various metrics, in a mostly futile attempt to handicap the race. With the Dippers’ vote a week away, here are the updated Power Rankings (click to view):

MPs: Despite losing an MP to Brian Topp this week, Mulcair continues to dominate with 43 MP endorsements – 10 more than the rest of the field combined.

Endorsements: These are the 308 endorsement numbers, which tell a different tale than the MP endorsements, due to Topp’s establishment support. Mulcair still leads at 27.9%, but Topp (26.9%) and Nash (23.9%) are on his tail, with Dewar (13.2%) and Cullen (5.2%) lagging behind.

Donations, Donors, Direct Donors: These numbers come via Pundits Guide and show Mulcair leading with 242k in donations, followed by Topp at 215k, then Dewar, Nash, and Cullen bunched together about 50k behind. The “direct donors” numbers is likely more relevant than the “donors” indicator, since the later includes “pass the hat” fundraisers and, let’s be frank, any indicator that shows Martin Singh with six times Mulcair’s support is bogus.

Poll: Numbers from the Dewar and Mulcair internal polls released last month. Given the source and the time lag, these numbers should be looked at with caution. Still, in past leadership races, polls of members have tended to be the best predictor of the outcome.

Media Mentions: The number of articles mentioning each candidate. Despite his fall to the second tier, Brian Topp is still being talked about by the media nearly as much as Mulcair.

Social Media: Cullen and Nash have the strongest Facebook presences, while Paul Dewar leads on Twitter followers. The “Twitter Mentions” column comes from a MediaMiser study released today, showing that Cullen and Mulcair have been the most talked about candidates on Twitter. Who knows what that means, but it’s interesting to see Cullen generating more buzz on Twitter than with the mainstream media.

Average Share: This is, simply enough, the average share of the candidates across these 10 indicators:

Mulcair 23%, Topp 16%, Nash 16%, Cullen 15%, Dewar 15%, Singh 8%, Ashton 5%

It is by no means a prediction of their first ballot support. Still, it matches the narrative we’re hearing, of Mulcair well in front of a tightly bunched pack of four candidates.

Momentum: Shows how each candidate’s share has shifted since last month, confirming Cullen’s surge:

Cullen +1.9%, Dewar +0.3%, Mulcair -0.1%, Nash -0.4%, Ashton -0.4%, Singh -0.5%, Topp -0.7%

Paul Dewar has quietly generated some positive momentum as well, with Brian Topp losing ground. Despite, or perhaps because of, his new frontrunner status, Mulcair has held steady across these indicators.

The Dippers Vote

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Ballots have arrived to thousands of NDP members, who now have until March 24th to vote for a leader.

Originally, the field reminded me a lot of the 2006 Liberal leadership race, with the role of the establishment front runner lacking elected experience played by Brian Topp, the polished veteran who wore different colours provincially played by Thomas Mulcair, the bushy haired do-gooder with weak French played by Paul Dewar, and the party stalwart and consensus candidate played by Peggy Nash.

Since then, the race has morphed into something completely different, with most indicators suggesting a pack of four candidates are chasing down Thomas Mulcair.

For an NDP member’s take on the field, the Jurist profiles the candidates here, and places Brian Topp atop his ballot. For an outsider’s take and Liberal perspective, I offer my thoughts below:

The Most Electable Candidate

If the end goal of the NDP is to form government, Thomas Mulcair is likely the Dipper for the job. He stands the best chance of holding Quebec and, more importantly, is the only candidate who has seriously talked about putting the NDP through the kind of New Labour transformation that is needed to squeeze the Liberals out of existence and form government. Mulcair has criticized Topp’s “tax the rich” platform, and has vowed to reduce the influence of unions within the NDP. When was the last time you heard an NDP leadership candidate bragging about how he “said no” to unions?

Mulcair also stands out in the debates as the best politician and best communicator in the field. He’s far from perfect – he’s arrogant, has been known to mispeak, is supposedly disliked by many in the party, and lacks the good natured charm of Layton. Still, if I were an NDP member with my eyes set on 24 Sussex, I’d vote for Mulcair.

Of course, if I wanted power at all costs, I’m not sure why I’d be in the NDP. So putting on my “idealistic NDPer” hat and realizing I don’t want my beloved party to “become the Liberals”, I’d probably cast my vote for Paul Dewar. His weak French would likely mean defeat for a good chunk of their Quebec caucus, but Dewar strikes me as the candidate most able to connect with voters – he’s not as smooth as Mulcair, but maybe that’s a good thing.

My Selfish Partisan Endorsement

As a Liberal partisan hoping to see the Liberals pass the NDP next election, I’d wholeheartedly encourage my NDP friends to vote for Peggy Nash. Based on her background and the language she uses, Nash comes across as the candidate most rooted in the traditional NDP mould. That’s good news for her when it comes to winning the race, but not when it comes to expanding the NDP base in a general election. I’ve also found her performance during the debates and on camera to be rather underwhelming.

Equally underwhelming has been Brian Topp, so I wouldn’t at all be disappointed to see him win. Despite being heralded as an “unbeatable juggernaut” within minutes of Layton’s death, Topp has shown himself to be a political rookie lacking both Mulcair’s polish and Dewar’s charm. At every opportunity, Topp has staked out traditional NDP turf, promising to tax the rich and attacking Mulcair as a “Blairite” ready to “sell out NDP principles”.

The Most Interesting Outcome

As a political junkie, there’s always a part of me rooting for the most interesting outcome. Did I want Ted Morton to become the Alberta PC leader? No…but it would have been interesting. Was I glad that George Bush beat John Kerry in 2004? No…but it made the next four years a lot more interesting.

In this race, the most interesting candidate is Nathan Cullen, who has refused to back down from his proposal to work with the Liberals and Greens in some ridings. While this idea originally sounded like a hail Mary from a long shot candidate, Cullen has performed well in the debates and is the only candidate from BC – a province with 30% of all NDP members. So don’t write him off yet.

A win by Cullen would put the question of co-operation with the Liberals back on the table for both parties, lobbing a landmine into next year’s Liberal leadership race. I’m far from sold on Cullen’s idea, but it would sure would spice up the political landscape.

The Orange Trickle

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According to Postmedia, NDP membership numbers have “skyrocketed“:

NDP memberships skyrocket heading into leadership vote

OTTAWA — The number of NDP members has increased by about 50 per cent in the past few months, a sign that interest is rising as the party approaches its leadership vote next month.

In all, there are 128,351 members voting for the party’s new leader, up from 83,824 back in October.

The climbing numbers are staggering in Quebec, which went from a little more than 1,600 members in October to more than 12,000 by February, surpassing all but Ontario and British Columbia in total membership numbers.

The four-month increase in Quebec represents growth of 750 per cent.

The support from Quebec could be a sign that leadership candidate Thomas Mulcair — who is a Quebecer — could have an edge heading into the March 24 vote.

First off, 45,000 new members isn’t “skyrocketing” when you consider both the Liberals and Conservatives exceeded this in their most recent leadership contests. Heck, the BC Liberals and Alberta PCs posted similar or higher membership totals in their leadership races last year.

As for that “staggering” increase in Quebec – a little perspective people! Yes, that’s a big percentage increase, but it also means Quebec will have a third the votes of BC. 12,000 Quebec members is well below Mulcair’s original target of 20,000, and it’s below the 14,000 who voted in the BQ leadership race. Keep in mind, those are actual BQ votes, not memberships, from a party most describe as “dead”. It’s also a total nearly every media outlet in Quebec ridiculed at the time.

In fairness, the NDP seems likely to surpass the 58,000 who voted in their 2003 leadership contest – though even that isn’t assured when you consider many of their current members are only members because of provincial leadership races last year. Still, we probably shouldn’t sneeze at 45,000 new members, especially when that includes the NDP’s first real Quebec membership base ever. There might very well be more votes in the NDP leadership race than the Liberal leadership race – especially if no one runs for Liberal leader.

But spin them as they might, for a party coming off a historic breakthrough in 2011, these membership numbers have got to be disappointing. Coupled with anemic fundraising totals, it’s clear this NDP leadership race has not excited their supporters the way the party hoped it would.

Who will win the race for Stornoway?

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Leadership races are tricky beasts to project, due to their insular nature. There are few meaningful polls, the media is being spun in twelve directions, and the air war rarely corresponds to the ground war. Name recognition and a spiffy social media campaign are a lot less important than having organizers who can deliver hundreds of membership forms.

So when some compared Brian Topp’s leadership bid to the Paul Martin 2003 juggernaut back in September, it was premature to say the least. It would be equally premature to call Topp’s campaign dead after a few weeks of bad press, when we haven’t reached the membership deadline yet.

The fact is, there’s very little for anyone (especially for those of us outside the NDP) to go on when it comes to handicapping this race – but here are how the candidates stack up on a few metrics:

The “donations” and “donors” columns come from the most recent fundraising numbers, with “media” merely being the number of news stories that pop up on a google news search under each candidate’s name. The “poll” column refers to an IVR poll of NDP members released by Paul Dewar’s campaign yesterday. If you don’t know what Facebook and Twitter are, then get with the times.

With five different candidates leading these seven metrics, it’s hard to know what to think. Clearly, this won’t be decided on the first ballot, and we shouldn’t be surprised by anything short of an Ashton or Singh victory.

Inspired by Pundits Guide’s look back at the 2003 NDP leadership race, I’ve decided to go back and see how useful these different factors have been in predicting first ballot support in past leadership contests. Behold the table of correlation values!

The numbers are all over the place, but that’s to be expected when you consider these races all had different rules, fundraising restrictions, and voting systems.

Still, there are a few take-home messages.

1. MP (or MPP/MLA, as the case may be) endorsements and fundraising totals are both moderately useful at giving a sense of the race, but they’re hardly perfect. After all, Stephane Dion was sixth in fundraising in 2006, and you could count Christy Clark’s caucus support on one amputated hand in 2011.

2. Social media may be an important element of leadership campaigns, but there isn’t enough data out there yet to suggest it’s a good barometer of a candidate’s strength.

3. Polls among party members are likely the most useful predictor, though they remain rare.

It should be noted that polls among the public are worthless (correlations generally between 0.1 and 0.4), but every leadership poll among party members I’ve found has tended to stack up fairly well. Still, the Dewar poll should be read with caution given the source – after all, the opportunity for massaging the data exists, and we know he wouldn’t have released the numbers if they didn’t look good for him. I’d be a lot more confident in the numbers had someone leaked a membership list to a polling company instead.

But at this juncture, Mulcair has a 9-point lead in the campaign’s only poll, has three times the MP endorsements of anyone else, and has the most donors, if not the most money raised. He might still be too polarizing a figure to win, but at this point I’d put down $20 (or $10,000 if Mitt Romney comes calling) that Mulcair will be ahead of Brian Topp on the first ballot.

Speed Dating with the Dippers

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics, NDP Leadership 2012 | Leave a comment

Sunday’s NDP debate was a chance to get a first look at the field of candidates, for the 99.9% of Canadians who don’t have the complete collection of Paul Dewar speeches on their Ipod.

With nine debaters on stage, it’s impossible to get anything more than a sense of each candidate and what they stand for. This was the case with the Liberal Leadership debates in 2006. The Grits tried to add pizazz by setting up mini 3-person debates, but this led to channel changing moments whenever the moderator announced “we will now listen to Joe Volpe, Carolyn Bennett and Ken Dryden debate the environment“. Click. The NDP copied this format, and the results were equally riveting.

In his opening statement, Brian Topp said “we won’t win when we talk in platitudes”, but followed this up by declaring “we fight for the Canada of our dreams“. I don’t fault Topp for that, because it’s hard to eloquently describe the Canada of our dreams in 30 seconds (I know mine has free maple syrup for all!). It was equally silly to ask debaters to explain their economic platform in 15 seconds. Even New Democrats have more to say about the economy than that.

So it’s better not to think of yesterday as a debate. Rather, it was more like speed dating for New Democrats – five minutes for each candidate to introduce themselves.

From the bits of the debate I saw, Thomas Mulcair made a strong impression – while I’m not sure he’ll look like as promising a suitor once voters get to know him better, he was good enough yesterday to earn a second date. Niki Ashton and Martin Singh were impressive, but only in the same way Martha Hall Findlay was impressive in 2006. In other words, don’t start printing those orange wedding invitations.

Nathan Cullen seemed to be enjoying himself the most on stage, but he’s already tied the “merger” rope around his neck and that will overshadow anything he says the rest of the campaign. Sort of like the guy who lets it slip on the first date that he’s into Scientology…or at least that he wants to set up a non-compete pact with the Scientologists.

Unfortunately, Romeo Saganash was sick, but a sick first date is rarely the start of a long relationship (with the obviously exception of Cory and Tapanga on Boy Meets World). Robert Chisholm’s weak French was likely a deal breaker for a lot of Dippers.

None of the others really stood out, and attempts to paint the Topp-Dewar scruffle as the second coming of “do you think it is easy to make priorities” are laughable. If you already liked or didn’t like Brian Topp, Peggy Nash, or Paul Dewar, nothing they said yesterday was going to change your mind. If you didn’t know much about them, their steady performance and status as “contenders” would likely be enough to tempt most Dippers to Google them or Facebook stalk them for a bit.

In terms of an introduction, the debate served its purpose, but anyone expecting fireworks was setting themselves up for a letdown. Of course, there weren’t going to be winners and losers. Of course, no one was going to start off the first leadership debate by going on the attack. Of course they were all going to agree on most policies, especially the policy of “we don’t like Stephen Harper”.

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