I'll put together another #skndpldr roundup later today. But for now, I'll point out that the campaign's debate schedule starts tomorrow night in Regina (live-streamed here) - and discuss briefly what I see each candidate needing to do as the debates unfold.
Of course, it will be tempting to analyze the debates based solely on zingers and attempted gotcha moments. But I tend to agree with the line of thinking that each candidate should focus on specific strategic goals, rather than merely looking to be declared the winner at the end of any given debate. And in a contest where down-ballot support looks to be crucial, the debates could represent the best possible opportunity to make a case to members whose first allegiance lies elsewhere.
With that in mind, here's my quick rundown as to what each candidate should be hoping to accomplish...
Cam Broten - Stand out from the crowd. Again, Broten has done better than most of the candidates in setting up down-ballot support for himself - and he surely won't want to alienate supporters of other contenders. But the great risk for Broten is still that he won't accumulate enough early-ballot support for that to matter. And I'm not convinced that a focus on experience is going to get the job done for Broten, especially if he can't translate that experience into some ability to speak with more authority than his competitors.
Ryan Meili - Keep pace on policy. Meili's choice to engage in a substantial consultation process before releasing a great deal of his platform presents both costs and benefits, and one of the major costs may become apparent based on how he approaches the early debates. It may be tempting to simply say "I'll get back to you on that" in order to avoid accusations of either withholding policy or making it up on the fly - but the danger is that Meili might then be seen as the lone candidate without much to say about issues of concern to members. As a result, Meili will need to at least deliver strong responses at a principled level on policies where he hasn't yet fleshed out the details.
Erin Weir - Bring out the olive branch. So far, Weir's campaign has been based largely on challenging the other candidates on all manner of issues - and it's worked to the extent that he's been able to stay competitive so far. But that relatively confrontational style also means that Weir has some heavier lifting yet to do in trying to win down-ballot support. And his best chance may be to recognize and latch onto some of the other candidates' themes and policy proposals.
Trent Wotherspoon - Go beyond talking points. While Wotherspoon has released plenty of policies already, he hasn't yet provided much by way of detailed explanation. Which means that he'll have to do so at the debates in the face of questions from his competitors - and his success in meeting those questions (rather than merely repeating his own message) may determine whether Wotherspoon enters the home stretch as the front-runner, or falls behind the pack.