Well, by now everyone should have heard that Erin Weir has withdrawn from the Sask. NDP Leadership race and thrown his behind Ryan Meili. As mentioned yesterday, it was one of the possibilities when it was announced that the two were making a joint announcement earlier today.
As with others, I'd like to extend my well wishes to Erin and thank him for his contributions to the campaign. I think he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that New Democrats can stand toe to toe with their right of centre counterparts on economic issues, and bring forward exciting and interesting approaches to enhance the social and economic spheres of government. If anything, I think Erin has definitely set a tone that the party will need to and must emulate in the next election, and that alone speaks volumes to the strength of his candidacy and the lasting impact that it will have moving forward.
In addition to the announcement, Erin and Ryan released a joint policy vision statement that helped to highlight the key reasons why Erin is throwing his support to Ryan. -this section has been amended, as I erroneously stated that the joint policy form did not include a mention of closing loopholes and instead committed only to a review, which was incorrect.-
To do a bit of editorializing, if I haven't already, I think this is a interesting development in the race at this point. With word that 2,100 of the 11,000 members of the Sask. NDP have already cast their ballots, there is the potential that this could make the race a little more interesting.
While Cam Broten has taken some flack for suggesting this isn't a game changer in the race, I do think we need to discuss this prospect to fully round out the story. When we look at the last two polls (both the Praxus poll and the one done internally by the Broten campaign), Erin was significantly behind the other candidates.
Erin's campaign also did its own web based poll, of which the results haven't been made public, but it is likely that it underscored the fact that Erin was running behind the other three challengers in the race; but who knows by what sort of margin. What we saw from the other polls was at least a 10 point margin of difference between Erin and his nearest competition. So, what this suggests perhaps is that the level of first ballot support moving from Erin to Ryan might not be as high as believed. (Of course, Erin's final internal poll would paint a better picture for this, so it's all speculation until evidence shows otherwise.)
I had given active thought as to what would happen at the convention in terms of down-ballot support, and in the scenarios where Erin was eliminated in the first ballot, determining where his supporters would go was a bit of a problem. There was the notion that those seeking an "outsider" candidate would shift to Meili; while those seeking someone with experience would find themselves split between Cam and Trent Wotherspoon.
As I've said before of endorsements, even with Erin's withdrawal, there is no guarantee that all of his supporters will find their way into Ryan's camp. While having Erin actively endorse Ryan is a good step towards that, it doesn't guarantee it. The joint policy vision was a good second step, as it tries to highlight the policy agreements between the two former rivals, and may go a long way in securing those who were supporting Erin based on policy.
But ultimately, supporters will reexamine and decide where they end up. It may be with Ryan, or it may not. And since we don't know what sort of numbers we're dealing with, in terms of Erin supporters, we truly don't know whether or not this decision will have clinched the leadership one way or the other.
Personally, I think there are still a few "wild cards" a play when it comes down to the actual convention; and we should have a clear idea by the first day which way the winds are blowing, but until then, I wouldn't even dare to suggest that this race is over. But, this certainly is an interesting development, and it is sure to have some kind of impact on the race.