Money, Momentum and Mudslinging Mark Final Week of NDP Leadership Race

March 20th, 2012

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[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

We pretend that some magic dataset or formula is going to help us predict the outcome of a given electoral contest, but in fact no-one really knows which indicator will turn out to be right until after it's all over. Except for one.

We believe that where there's money, there's momentum.

But all we know for sure is that where there's momentum, and the stakes are high, the mud is sure to follow.

The Money and the Momentum

To the extent that money means momentum, Thomas Mulcair and Nathan Cullen still have it. As of the second-last fundraising report the candidates will have to file before voting day, Mulcair is well ahead of his closest financial rival, Brian Topp ($303K vs $239K), while Cullen had pulled ahead of both Peggy Nash and Paul Dewar ($208K for Cullen vs $196K and $188K respectively).

[Analysis of the earlier financial filings can be found here.]

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Martin Singh and Niki Ashton trail the pack at $68.3K and $45.8K respectively, though Singh has raised barely $1,500 since February 4, while Ashton's campaign has pulled in more than ten times that amount ($18.7K) during the same time frame.

Looking at changes over time, while Thomas Mulcair is showing continued growth and strength in fundraising over recent weeks, it's Nathan Cullen who has continued his last minute burst of momentum — not only in the amount his campaign is raising where he all but matched Mulcair in the week ending March 3, but also in the number of contributions where Cullen again bested Mulcair, albeit with a smaller average contribution size.

Anecdotally, at least two other campaigns claim to have broken the $300K barrier after the reporting deadlines, both Brian Topp's campaign (which issued a news release about that milestone earlier in the week) and more recently Nathan Cullen's as well.

Here are the details of the three separate financial reports:

Gross Fundraising and Number of Contributors*, as reported in Weekly Leadership Contest Financial Reports, by Leadership Candidate and Report, Part 2(b) Directed Contributions only

  To Week 4 Week 3 Week 2 To Date
Amt Num Amt Num Amt Num Amt Num
All $1.039M 4,217 $88,581 555 $120,165 898 $1,248M 5,760
* NOTE: The number of contributors here may be less than the number of contributions reported below, as one contributor can give more than one contribution to a candidate. Contributors giving to more than one candidate will be double-counted, however.
TM $238,003 1,005 $24,250 148 $41,240 272 $303,493 1,425
BT $213,982 524 $11,652 58 $13,270 84 $238,904 666
NC $154,976 924 $14,448 152 $38,511 349 $207,935 1,425
PN $163,318 667 $20,664 135 $11,908 82 $195,890 884
PD $169,318 782 $8,795 41 $9,255 72 $187,648 895
MS $65,916 156 0 $2,346 14 $68,262 170
NA $33,370 159 $8,772 21 $3,635 25 $45,777 205

As well, I've updated the regional distribution documents (open PDFs), both by (a) province, and (b) postal region, though no particular changes in the regional patterns have occurred in the intervening two weeks.

Now to the timeline. Last time we looked at fundraising by month, but given that the new totals are coming in by week, maybe that's the better way to look at them this time around (except for the average contribution size chart, which is too herky-jerky to look at with weekly data).

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With the exception of a few peaks and lulls associated with the change in the calendar year, the leadership campaigns have been raising a combined $50K a week or so once the contest got going, moving up towards $100K weekly in the last few weeks. But again, how those global weekly takes are distributed gives some clues about the changing field in the race.

If we treat the weekly fundraising performance of each campaign as a share of the weekly total, we see that to March 3, Cullen and Mulcair are each sitting at 35% of the weekly fundraising, with Topp, Nash and Dewar clustered back together betweenh 7% and 11%, and Ashton bringing up the rear at 2.6%.

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In terms of the campaigns' shares of the number of donations, Cullen garnered 42% or so of the contributions in the week ending March 3, to Mulcair's 32%, with the other three leading candidates much farther back at 7% to 8%, and Ashton at 2.3%.

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A couple of strategic points should be noted. First of all, to the extent weekly fundraising shares are a predictor of anything, Mulcair and Cullen's momentum has come largely at the expense of Peggy Nash. Given an assumption that the presumed party stalwarts might try to combine forces after the first ballot against a perceived centrist threat, if none of Topp, Nash or Dewar found their way into a strong second place finish on the first ballot, that combination would become orders of magnitude harder to achieve.

Secondly, and on the other hand, it was not in fact the weekly fundraising totals that predicted the 2003 outcome, but the cumulative ones. If that's the better indicator, why might that be? Well, for one thing, because late money is hard to spend well. It's too late to hire full-time organizers and put them to much effective use signing up members or lining up local endorsements, too late to invest in national mailings, or predictive dialling phone banks, or well-designed database systems, or to organize a full-on get-out-the-vote campaign. It will buy some robocalls and telephone town halls (the first advertise the second, no matter what any candidate says about running a "robocall-free campaign"), and it might cover a quick IVR survey, a bit more travel, and a better floor show at convention.

On the other hand, 2003 organizing was done before blogging, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools that have dropped the cost of direct campaigning substantially in the meantime.

Thirdly, the reason we think money might predict the final outcome, and by implication why it might indicate momentum, is because the same kinds of ground organization are required to raise a lot of money from small donors, as are required to sell memberships, and then reach, persuade, identify, keep track of and pull your vote in a one-member-one-vote (OMOV) race.

Or are they? If you really have the wind in your sails (think back to the NDP in Québec last spring), a ground game is not necessary. In closer races, on the other hand, it certainly is.

In any event, looking at the overall shares does give a somewhat different picture than weekly shares, and it could thus help to explain the other major dynamic in the race on display this past week as well.

Cumulative NDP Leadership Candidate Gross Fundraising Shares to March 6, 2012, Part 2(b) Directed Contributions only

Num* % Amt %
All 5,932 100% $1,247,909 100%
* NOTE: Data reported as the number of individual contributions, and NOT the number of contributors as above.
TM 1,236 20.8% $303,493 24.3%
BT 681 11.5% $238,904 19.1%
NC 1,455 24.5% $207,935 16.7%
PN 906 15.3% $195,890 15.7%
PD 999 16.8% $187,648 15.0%
MS 175 3.0% $68,262 5.5%
NA 208 3.5% $45,777 3.7%

The Momentum and the Mudslinging

Tom Mulcair told me last summer that — long before any poll numbers arrived to confirm the orange wave in Quebec — they knew they must have been growing in the province, when the first reports arrived about the Bloc Québécois pulling down the NDP's signs in Joliette. Looking back, the early Bloc poaching of NDP candidates was probably a reliable signal as well.

Fast forward to the leadership race at hand, and I think we can say that while Nathan Cullen has late-day money momentum, no-one has really pulled out the stops to try and stop him in his tracks, and thus while that does give him "wildcard" status in my books, I also think it means he's not yet perceived as a true threat.

Instead, the target has been primarily Mulcair: first through anonymously sourced stories about his parallel negotiations with the Conservatives and NDP, then a completely anonymous website encouraging voters to "kNOw Mulcair" (featuring a series of rather stereotyped NDP positions that sound like they either came from an outsider or the classic "overzealous party youth member"), followed by a series of anonymous spoof Twitter accounts (which were mean but, let's be honest, in their meanness were not that much worse than the generally appalling tenor and sycophancy on the #NDPldr Twitter feed overall).

Predictably each of the attacks, being unable to kill the king, made him stronger – particularly in a notoriously contrarian party like the NDP.

So out came the big guns this past Thursday. Globe reporter Gloria Galloway told CTV Question Period on the weekend that Daniel Leblanc of their bureau called up Ed Broadbent to ask him the questions, who in turn said he expressed his concerns about Mr. Mulcair's candidacy "frankly, because I was asked". Many others have assumed that Mr. Broadbent was put up to it by Brian Topp's campaign, which the former party leader has supported from the beginning. Whatever the origin of the story, Broadbent did not hesitate to repeat those concerns to the Toronto Star, CP, the CBC and Postmedia in subsequent days. (h/t Aaron Wherry)

He told the Globe that many people in the party are “supporting Brian, who doesn’t have a seat, over Tom, the man they have worked with. I don’t think it’s accidental,” and then unrepentantly told Postmedia two days later that "I have never had a personal vendetta or something so trivial or banal against Tom. But I have strong convictions about the truth in politics and I dislike intensely when someone gets a bum rap or when someone else tries to take credit for what other people are doing".

Broadbent's intervention brought a voluble response from the party's first elected MP in Québec, Phil Edmondston, who averred in an interview with La Presse that a defeat of Tom Mulcair would represent une «insulte magistrale» for Québec (basically a "major insult"), and that Brian Topp (the only other candidate he saw as having a chance to win) did not have the charisma necessary for the job.

Read Tim Harper in the Star for a wrap of the strategic fallout.

Another highly recommended overview of the Leadership race for those just now tuning in is this post from TC Norris, and just about anything written by Greg Fingas ("the Jurist") at the Accidental Deliberations blog.


For the latest on the NDP Leadership Race, don't forget to follow the half-hourly news updates, and social media tickers at the Pundits' Guide NDPLdr portal page:

10 Responses to “Money, Momentum and Mudslinging Mark Final Week of NDP Leadership Race”

  1. Dan Tan says:

    Hey Nathan Cullen,

    Long before you decided to run, I was that guy on Twitter who told you “they’ll never see you coming”.

    They still can’t. Saturday will be interesting…

  2. Kevin Logan says:

    Hey Dan Tan,

    Politics is the power of ideas. The one Nathan ran on is a powerful idea and a winning strategy.

    Politics is also the art of the possible, Nathan made it possible by his charismatic stage presence.

    However, traditional politics and party brass often combine to kill ideas and makes whats possible impossible.

    Heres to hoping the leadership candidates can see past their own agendas and do whats best for the party and the country. Nash and Cullen offer the strategy and leadership required to end the conservatives, the others do not.

  3. Steven Lloyd says:

    Alice, I don’t want to be a nitpicker, but the numbers in the “contribution count” don’t add up quite right. The TM one is wrong for sure and something else isn’t quite right. (Doesn’t add up to 100% like you say at the bottom)

  4. JimR says:

    Am I reading that wrong or have the top tier leadership candidates only raised $200K-$300K each? Thats nowhere near the cost of a national leadership campaign, they will be in boatloads of debt for years to come…..

  5. Ken Summers says:

    Most campaigns raise a substantial chunk of their funds in the period soon AFTER the election.

    So ending with SOME does not indicate carrying debt for a long time.

    We also have no idea yet what the campaigns are spending. I dont assume they will even spend the maximum… though my GUESS would be that the top 2 or 3 do.

  6. Freya says:

    Those numbers are way out of date. In fact, Topp broke 300K last Monday, March 12th, and I believe he was the first to do so…

  7. Freya, Topp’s numbers have not been filed with Elections Canada yet. The vintage of the numbers I’ve posted is very clear. Topp was not the first to break $300K – in fact the table here makes it clear that Mulcair had done so by early March. Still Topp was one of three candidates to do so.

    Jim R, the expense ceiling for this leadership race was set at $500K. As Ken says, not all the candidates will have spent even that.

    Sorry for the typos, everyone, and thanks to those who caught them.

  8. Jason Baines says:

    I think the omits the key component of politics. The article is knee deep in facts and conclusions derived, but it doesn’t provide a question of the overall mood in society as a whole. We’ve seen in Canada a sharp divide between left and right, culminating in the near decimation of the liberals. The world trend is now for either the collapse of the Third way parties – Pasok – replaced by more radical socialist formations. In France now, both the PS and the Left front are soaring in the polls, the Netherlands, Ireland etc. With occupy, and a radicalized movement, $$ doesn’t walk or talk. Ideas do. That’s why I am convinced that the final ballot will have Nash and Mulcair, both representing more distinctive ideological currents or a lack thereof. By all accounts, (phoning that I’ve done) Nash is a strong second with Topp clearly in third. My feeling was that Ashton/Dewar and Cullen are all hovering around the same 10% mark.

  9. Dan Tan says:

    Kevin Logan,

    No need to be dramatic or conspiratorial.

    I say this as a former habitual Liberal voter from Ontario – turned recent NDP member.

    I will vote for Nathan Cullen as leader. But I don’t think much of his joint-nominations plan. It’s nice symbolism, but an unnecessary distraction.

    I vote on economics. This is the central issue of our time.

    Past events have proven the NDP right (I will humbly admit, because I was a skeptic). But more importantly, it’s the NDP’s future proposals that will prove them worthy of government.

    It’s not Alberta that’s killing Ontario & the wider Canadian manufacturing sectors. It’s the high petro-dollar.

    The response of the Liberals is to harken back to their past, promote marijuana, or have Dalton McGuinty scold Alison Redford.

    The NDP response has been impressive. Its leaders have clearly recognized the problem & responded with interesting policy solutions (especially Mulcair & Topp).

    I’m voting for Nathan because I recognize his is a fantastic orator & such a great guy to be around. But more importantly, he’s an open-minded person. So even though I find his economic plan a bit too “broad” (compared to Topp & Mulcair)…I believe that once he’s briefed by progressive economists…he’ll refine his message so effectively…Stephen Harper & co. won’t see him coming.

  10. Tom on the first ballot or 2 but if so he will be so close to make the second ballot pointless.

    Nash second and Cullen third but no formal cooperation unless the Liberals lose more seats/vote share and Harper picks up seats. If Harper stays about the same and the ND pick up a few, that progress stops any cooperation.

    Really if the Libs don’t come back with 80 seats, they are toast.

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