Armchair Quarterbacking the Ryan Meili Campaign

Accidental Jurist has an excellent analysis of the campaigns so far of each candidate in the provincial NDP leadership race – how they got
into the race, what they've done so far, the strategies they'll need to
be successful now that the membership deadline has passed and the
campaign's entered its final phase. 



Lingenfelter – “The Collective Memory
Higgins – “The Comeback
Meili – “The Movement
Pedersen – “The Lone Wolf

Because the Jurist has done his usual well-thought out, rational analysis, I thought I'd take a slightly different approach and play armchair quarterback for the Meili campaign. 

Lingenfelter is no doubt the front runner so the first question to be asked by the Meili campaign is “by how much?”  If I'm being completely honest, Ryan winning on the first ballot would seem all but impossible barring some major scandal for Link (sorry, a highly edited clip from a political roast probably ain't gonna do it – even if it's now over 2000 views and getting some mainstream media mentions) or a major endorsement or other good fortune for Meili (I know why high-level party figures such as Calvert, Romanow, Blankeney, etc. don't endorse candidates but it's really too bad.  If they honestly believe one of the candidates – whether it's Link, Meili or someone else – is the best person for the future of the NDP, why not add their voices to the conversation?  Isn't that a more principled stand than being “neutral”?)  

Since he's not the front runner, Meili's strategy is likely one of trying to keep Link from running away with things, keep raising awareness and momentum over the next month and a half with a goal of a strong second place finish after the first ballot then hoping that the majority of other members who supported either Pedersen (quite likely) or Higgins (not as likely since, as the Jurist points out, some Higgins support will go to Link) will break for him rather than Lingenfelter. 

Part of the reason Lingenfelter is the front runner is because he has a lot of name recognition within the party and I hate to even say it but there are probably a lot of casual members who will check his name because it's the only one they recognize.

Of course, those who are interested enough in politics to at least pony up the ten spot to buy a membership should also know the name of MLA Deb Higgins as well and yet another question is just how much of an “Anybody But Lingenfelter” sentiment there really is out there. 

This is a bit of a digression but a good time to address this sentiment which I've hinted at a couple times times on my blog but never really talked about openly – namely, why is there an “Anybody But Lingenfelter” sentiment? 

In no particular order…

– Link is seen as being to the right of the party.
– He went to Alberta when some would say that Saskatchewan needed him the most.
– Worse for many, he took a job in government relations with an oil & gas company.
– He's open to nuclear development in Saskatchewan unlike all three other candidates who are all opposed. 
– Many see him as representing the party's past rather than its future.
– Some find his bearing to be arrogant and off-putting. 
– I think it's a bullshit argument and debated even listing it.  But the fact is that there will be some who are against Link because they don't like that he is remarried and/or that he's remarried to someone much younger than him and/or that he's remarried to someone from Columbia.  As I said, it's a bullshit argument as far as I'm concerned.  But the Star-Phoenix story I linked to earlier mentions that he's divorced so this line of reasoning is getting at least some attention from the mainstream media.

So what do you do if you're Ryan Meili and trying to run a positive campaign (he says, having just mentioned the most stupid scandalous story out there about Ryan's opponent!) that's about the future of the party while also facing the enormous hurdle of running against a well-known, well-funded, well-supported candidate? 

– One of the biggest opportunities is the mailer that apparently goes to every registered party member prior to the convention and contains information supplied by each candidate about themselves and their campaign.  I've seen firsthand – for myself and with others – how people who meet Ryan and hear his story and his background like him.  Although not quite the same as a face-to-face meeting, this mailer will be Ryan's best opportunity to introduce himself to the entire party in one fell swoop.

– That Ryan seems to do really well with young people is no surprise.  What's perhaps more surprising is that he also does well with party old-timers who've been around for a long time and remember Tommy Douglas as a contemporary.  So the biggest group Ryan has to reach is the Baby Boomers who (I'm just guessing on this) make up the bulk of the party and who identify with Link as their own contemporary.  There are a variety of ways to do this – one of the biggest for all of these Boomers who are newly retired or nearing retirement would be to talk a lot more about his idea for SaskPharm, a Crown Corp dedicated to making affordable generic drugs, right here in Saskatchewan for use by our citizens and for sale to other markets.  I don't think the “party renewal/time to hand over the mantle of leadership” argument works with many Boomers because frankly, many of them aren't ready for that yet and resent these young punks coming in and wanting the world without paying their dues.

– Continue to utilize Web 2.0 tools and expand greatly on this – Ryan should have video clips on YouTube, photos on Flickr, regular blog posts by him (or others at the top levels of his campaign since his schedule is so busy), more Twitter updates, even more happening on his already busy Facebook pages and so on.  In terms of cost effectiveness in terms of money and space/time, this is easily the best way to reach people.  And the old stereotypes about people in rural areas not being web savvy or having high speed and knowing the tools fades every day.  When the main question I was asked when doing computer & Internet training around SE Saskatchewan last winter was about satellite internet for farms, you know things have changed!

– The three big strikes against Lingenfelter as far as I can see are:
1) he's open to nuclear development
2) he went to Alberta for a number of years before returning to run for the party leadership
3) he represents the past of the party while Ryan represents its future. 

Ryan is running a positive campaign so he can't be seen as being too aggressive on any of these points.  But he should be able to bring them up as relevant to the argument about who would make the best leader.  The Alberta point is a bit tougher to justify as an appropriate line of attack compared to the other two things.  But in a province where the biggest joke of the past decade was about “the last person to leave turning off the lights” and where many of those leaving the province headed for the “streets paved with gold” land of Oil-berta (guilty!), the resentment about Link having “deserted” the party and the province is out there.  I'm not sure how Ryan can raise this and keep it positive but if there's a way, I'd do it.  Perhaps just stressing that he's a lifelong Saskatchewan resident would be enough?

– I have one idea I've passed on to others involved in Ryan's campaign which is sort of related to the Web 2.0 area but I won't post it here.  It's no great secret but not worth tipping the hand in case it goes forward.

– I think there are a few places where Ryan's missed good to great opportunities to build his campaign but I'm obviously not going to get into them here.  Maybe after June 6, no matter what happens at the convention?

Those are just a few random ideas off the top of my head of how Ryan might improve his chances of beating Dwain Lingenfelter.  But now that the deadline for signing up new members and renewing lapsed memberships has passed, ultimately the only thing Ryan can do to win is convince a majority of the ten or twelve thousand NDP members that he is the best choice for leader of the party.  Can he do it?  I honestly believe that he can!   

Comments 2

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    To offer my two cents' worth on your digression, I'd add one more point to the list (which is much the mirror image of my point on personal loyalty to Link). While he managed to win a good number of friends along the way, it's also tough to govern without stepping on some toes – particularly in an era like the early '90s where the NDP ended up cutting and downloading extensively to try to get the province's budget under control. In some cases, that may have driven people out of the party altogether – but at least some almost certainly stayed, albeit with a lingering frustration with the top figures in Romanow's government.

    Posted 28 Apr 2009 at 2:32 am
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Sort of a related point I thought of after I posted m list was that some people are inclined towards the “Anybody But Link” camp because he seems the most likely to do politics in a very traditional way with all the negatives that encompasses – everything from parachuting into ridings for one coffee party then saying he's 'covering the province” (technically true but a bit exaggerated in reality) to phrasing endorsements from SYND President and CUPE Provincial President so they should like the entire organization rather than the individual was doing the endorsing to moves like his unilateral call for the La Ronge forum.

    Posted 29 Apr 2009 at 2:53 am

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