The Race for Stornoway
While I doubt any of the contenders are causing Stephen Harper sleepless nights, it's a diverse field which is good news for the Dippers. Every true-orange New Democrat will be able to find a candidate to their liking, and a lot of membership forms will get sold. Nearly every imaginable demographic is represented...all that's missing is Pat Martin to provide comic relief.
It's too early to seriously handicap the field, but a nine candidate field and a 5-month race means it would be incredibly premature to declare this a Topp-Mulcair showdown. Someone will emerge from the pack to challenge the frontrunners, and it's likely to come down to second and third choices.
Pundits Guide appears to be the place to be for NDP leadership news, while Far and Wide puts the candidates under a Liberal lens.
Here, I present a brief overview of the field:
Topp of the Pack
Brian Topp: The media crowned him as the race's frontrunner within hours of Jack Layton's death, though that may have simply been a case of journalists unable to resist a good pun. Topp has the most establishment support, but as Alison Redford and Christy Clark recently showed, that may not necessarily be an asset.
Topp has released a "tax the rich" proposal which should be popular with NDP members, but it's not without risks. I can guarantee eight other leadership camps will be whispering about the Tory advertising onslaught this would bring about, in an effort to brand Topp as unelectable.
Thomas Mulcair: The longtime NDP Dauphin has had a rocky start to the campaign, spending more time complaining about the rules than giving Dippers a reason to vote for him. Still, Mulcair is experienced and is the party's best bet at holding Quebec (at least according to Thomas Mulcair).
Unlike Topp, Mulcair's pitch has been directed more at the general public than the NDP faithful, promising to ween the NDP off their union dependence. He's clearly trying to portray himself as the candidate most likely to lead the NDP to the promised land. That's not a bad pitch - even though federal NDP members might be less concerned with power than most, it's a message that should resonate with provincial Dippers in BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia who have tasted power. Hell, who am I kidding - everyone wants to be in power.
Paul Dewar: Dewar would probably be my choice at this point if I had a bit more orange in my veins but I'm always a sucker for an underdog. He's a good communicator, though some questions remain about his french.
His urban strategy is smart politics, since that's where the votes are in a one-member-one-vote leadership race.
Peggy Nash: She's relatively well know and relatively well liked, and I imagine she has a good network of NDP, union, and activist contacts to solicit for support. I can't imagine anyone is overly excited by her, but she's the highest profile woman in the race and might have some appeal as a consensus candidate.
Nathan Cullen: His proposal to work with the Liberals in some ridings will help him stand out, but it might make him too polarizing a figure to get the second a third ballot support he'd need to win. He has a strong social media presence so far, and all indications are he'll get his fair share of media coverage.
Cullen also has geography working in his favour. He's the lone BC candidate, and one-third of all current NDP members are from that province.
Robert Chisolm: On paper, Chisolm is a strong candidate - he's a former union leader and former leader of the Nova Scotia NDP. He has the ability to clean up in Nova Scotia, but lack of name recognition will be an obstacle elsewhere. He's going to need to find an issue to call his own, to distinguish himself from the crowded field.
Romeo Saganash: Saganash was the first candidate out of the gate, and is intriguing enough to warrant a close look - he's from Quebec, is fluent in English and French, and has been actively involved with the Cree Regional Authority. I'll confess to knowing little about him, but if his political skills are polished, he's likely to get media attention and could be this season's break-out star.
Martin Singh: Singh is likely the least known candidate in the contest and doesn't have the House of Commons platform to raise his profile. I can't see him winning, but his pro-business stance could help him stand out.
Singh is from Nova Scotia, but launched his campaign in Brampton - his support in the Sikh community could make him a formidable threat in a one-member one-vote contest, and I wouldn't at all be surprised to see him in the top 5 or 6 on the first ballot. Growing from there will be more challenging.
Niki Ashton: Ashton is expected to declare shortly, and it's no secret this will be more about raising her profile than about winning. At 29, her support will come predominantly from youth and from her home province of Manitoba. If she does well, she could position herself for a future run in 10 or 20 years.