|NDP hopefuls debate in Vancouver|
1) Tom Mulcair:
It is always difficult to win a debate when all the rest of the candidates relentlessly attack you and put their questions to you, as they did in this debate to Tom Mulcair. On the one hand Mulcair gets the most response time, but on the other he has to defend against whatever the other candidates believe are his most vulnerable and weak point. He rose to the challenge; in fact, this was the first debate where I believe he was the unequivocal winner. He was the most policy focused of the candidates, he managed to retain a clear focus on key NDP values, and came off as articulate, intelligent and prepared. Given his status as the polling front-runner and the man to beat, he was able to firmly solidify that status in this debate.
2) Nathan Cullen:
Cullen's success or failure in a debate is usually determined by his core defining issue: the joint nomination proposal. Whatever you think of the plan, one thing is becoming clear: Cullen is far better at defending the proposal than the others are at attacking it. Maybe it is just experience since he has had to do this all over the country. He has mastered that mixture of passion and pragmatism as he defends it and I think he won all the interchanges on the joint nomination proposal in the debate. One problem he faces is that since he has to spend so much time on this issue, it can cut into his ability to speak to other issues; this is likely why he largely ignored the issue in the early debates. In this debate, however, he managed a good mixture of speaking on a wide range of issues while addressing the joint nomination proposal effectively when it was raised by others. Given his truly excellent public speaking skills he was able to win most interactions he was engaged in. For this, I rank him as second in the debate.
3) Peggy Nash:
Peggy Nash is the candidate I have most consistently ranked at or near the top in terms of debate performance. However, she lagged in the Winnipeg debate. In this debate, Nash largely regained her previous status and would have won it were it not for the stellar performances from Mulcair and Cullen. Ultimately, it is a question of style. Peggy Nash can speak very passionately about the values of the NDP and when it comes to this I don't think anyone can do it better than she can. However, Nash is much less policy-centric or detail oriented. Nash comes off as a populist compared to Mulcair's more technocratic approach.
4) Brian Topp:
I ranked Brian Topp as winning the last debate for the first time. Unfortunately, he did not perform anywhere near as well this time. In the original Ottawa debate Topp was the most negative of the candidates engaging in very direct and confrontation attacks which were relatively poorly received. In this debate Topp was cheerful, and even said the word "cheery". However, many of Topp's comments and questions fell very flat. While I think Topp's positioning on taxes for the rich is really well positioned in today's political climate, he doesn't manage to truly articulate and build enthusiasm for it.
5) Paul Dewar, and the rest of the field:
Niki Ashton and Martin Singh have always been the two at the bottom and, as before, they were enable to be truly effective in this debate. However, Paul Dewar has a significant problem in the debates. I have yet to rank him in the top couple for performance in any debate. However, according to polling and endorsements, he is a serious contender in the field in a way that Ashton and Singh are not. At some point he needed to step out in front and and provide the legitimacy of his status, yet in this final debate he was not able to do it. For example, in his opening statements he spend most of the time name dropping people in his team who the overwhelming majority of people would not know. His best points is his ability to talk about his "next 70 seats" plan to move the NDP to a majority; he was not able to articulate this effectively in this debate.
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