Done Like Dinning
For Michael Ignatieff, he was only the frontrunner because others took a pass at the race. He'd been assembling an organization for under a year before the race began and no one ever saw him as invincible. Frontrunners have stalled at 30% in many leadership races over the years and his loss was a tale as old as time.
Jim Dinning's defeat in Alberta, however, may have been the largest upset ever in a Canadian leadership race (putting aside the surprising 1925 PEI NDP leadership convention...). If readers can think of a comparable face plant, I would love to hear from you, because nothing comes to mind right now to me. Consider everything Jim Dinning had going for him. He was a hugely successful treasurer and had higher name recognition than anyone else in the race. He'd been building an organization for a decade and had been hailed by the media as the "next one" over that time period. He had, far and away, the largest war chest of any candidate. He had Rod Love and most of the backroom heavy hitters. He had 38 MLAs endorsing him. Everyone in Alberta believed his victory in this race was inevitable.
With everything he had going for him, Dinning's candidacy is comparable to Paul Martin's in 2003. Paul got over 90% of the delegates while Dinning lost. And it wasn't even close. So what went wrong?
Well, for starters, the rules of the game were different this time. Despite having the party apparatus onside, there was no ability or desire to restrict access to forms. Because of this, Dinning also had to face a field of 7 as supposed to...Sheila Copps (who even Jim Dinning could beat, I imagine). But these factors only made a loss for Dinning possible - he still needed to find a way to lose. And he did.
For starters, he became seen as the "Calgary candidate" and the "establishment candidate". Anyone who has studied Alberta political history knows that Albertans have traditionally shunned the establishment - that's why protest parties were born here and that's why they don't really seem to care about having MPs in government. Further, those familiar with the PC Party are certainly aware that the Edmonton/Calgary/rural split among party members is, in many ways, stronger than any ideological divisions could ever be. Dinning's campaign (and most others for that matter) never realized what was happening and, as a result, he ran a campaign where he took few risks and contrasted himself only with Ted Morton, unaware that Morton could never win 50% + 1.
Ed Stelmach didn't do anything remarkable to win this race. I don't think Ed Stelmach has ever done anything remarkable in his life. This was Dinning's race to lose and he lost it in one of the biggest political shockers in Canadian political history. As someone who has been put off by Dinning quite some time, it's certainly a little satisfying.