The NDP's leadership campaign has presented such a wide variety of opportunities and questions for party members that it's been difficult to decide who to endorse - and I've reached my own first-ballot decision only after taking time to see how those have been balanced out in this afternoon's leadership showcase. But for what it's worth, here's my endorsement for the many members who have chosen to wait to decide for themselves.
To start with, I'll be shifting my first choice from my preliminary endorsement - not because Brian Topp's positive message is any less important than it's always been, but because his late-campaign strategy has been so closely identified with personality politics directed toward Thomas Mulcair.
My goal on the first ballot is both to shape the choices for subsequent ballots, and to make sure that some of the key themes of the campaign are reflected in the voting results. And given the presumptive lead held by Mulcair so far (meaning that there's no need to vote for him immediately to keep him on the ballot), the choice has come down to two candidates.
Throughout the leadership campaign, Nathan Cullen's joint nomination proposal has been more a source of controversy than strength. But with Mulcair now taking the position that he doesn't want to cooperate with other parties even in a post-election coalition, Cullen's position now takes on some additional importance: undoubtedly it'll be tougher for Mulcair to orient the NDP away from its longstanding and highly successful cooperative approach if the candidate who's encouraging a move in the other direction receives a vote of confidence from the party's membership.
Meanwhile, Paul Dewar's interest in party organization and movement-building stands in contrast to Mulcair's still-unclear position. And a strong first-ballot showing for Dewar could work wonders in ensuring that an eventual leader pays due attention to that part of the NDP's mission, rather than focusing excessively on the conventional-wisdom bubble which so often excludes many of the voters the NDP needs to win over.
As I've mentioned before, I consider Cullen to be the better retail politician of the two, and arguably the one I'd most want to see elected leader as the convention plays out (so long as he himself focuses more on building the NDP rather than what still seems like a futile mission toward multi-party electoral strategies). For now, though, my first-ballot support will go to...
But of course, whether you agree or not, now's the time to vote. And we'll find out soon how all we've seen over the past few months will translate into members' support.