Liberal Leadership Marathon Runners

I posted 8 Simple Rules for the Liberal Leadership Race a few weeks ago, prompting a few readers to ask for my thoughts on the candidates. The short answer to that is simply: it’s too early to tell. This thing won’t be decided for nearly two years, so predicting the outcome at this point is little more than wild speculation.

That said, it’s the month of July and there’s little else to speculate about in the new majority government reality, so let’s go wild!

Consider this the first in a series of Liberal Leadership Power Rankings to be updated every couple of months, ranking the rumoured candidates based on their likelihood of winning. Be forewarned, this is based on little more than idle chatter and my own biased opinions.

1. Dominic LeBlanc: This race is likely to have more of a 2006 than a 2008 feel to it – that is to say, I’d expect a wide open field with a high possibility of a “surprise” winner. But if I had to pick a frontrunner at this point, it would likely be Dom, if for no other reason than he appears to be the only candidate almost certain to run. I thought Dominic was the best candidate last time, and he’d bring a lot to the table – a good mix of youth and experience, and he’s likely the best bet to make the party relevant outside of its Toronto-base (if you can call what’s left in the GTA a “base”).

2. Justin Trudeau: A LeBlanc-Trudeau showdown would bring back memories of the Rae-Ignatieff “roommate races”, as the Trudeau and LeBlanc kids all knew each other growing up. While many will no doubt support or oppose Justin because of his name, he’s an impressive candidate in his own right, and likely the most charismatic contender at this point. The only reason he doesn’t sit number 1 on the list is that he’s hinted (publicly at least) he might bide his time and skip the race.

3. Bob Rae: Yes, I know he’s said he won’t run. And I do take Bob at his word that he has no intention of removing “interim” from his title. But consider a scenario where the Liberals are back in second place in the polls come October 2012. A few anonymous “insiders” begin murmuring to Jane Taber about the great job Bob Rae has done as interim leader, and a “draft Bob” campaign starts up online. It’s certainly not science fiction and, despite his age, it would be hard to discount Rae due to his organization, political smarts, and speaking skills.

4. David McGuinty: Like Justin, McGuinty will be judged by his last name. Whether that’s for better or for worse will depend on what happens this October, but McGuinty should be able to assemble a fairly strong team if he does decide to run.

5. Marc Garneau: He missed out on the interim job, but if you buy the “alternance” theory or like the idea of poaching some of those orange seats in Quebec, Garneau could make for an intriguing choice. As a bonus, it might be harder for the Tories to smear the reputation of a national hero – obviously they still would, but at least they’d have to work a bit harder at it.

6. Scott Brison: Consider this a sleeper pick of sorts, since Scott has said he’s not interested. But a lot can change in 2 years. Brison is young, a gifted communicator, and embodies the “fiscally responsible, socially progressive” label most Liberals assign to themselves.

Although the above are the most talked about candidates, there’s a strong change the eventual winner’s name isn’t on that list. Defeated candidates like Martin Cauchon, Gerard Kennedy, or Martha Hall Findlay could run. With a slew of provincial elections coming up this fall, the timing will be good for any number of provincial politicians to jump federally. Less well known caucus members could make a name for themselves in Parliament.

And heck, maybe if we’re lucky we can find a University professor at Harvard with some time on his hands.

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