Saturday, March 24, 2012

Live blogging the NDP Leadership Convention

Welcome to's live-blog of the NDP Leadership Convention. During the course of the day, I'll be updating the site with ballot-by-ballot results, changes to the endorsement rankings as candidates drop off, and estimates of where the votes are going from one ballot to the next.

You can refresh the site (updates will be made to this post) or you can follow me on Twitter, where I will be tweeting when new updates are posted.

With seven candidates and five with a real chance of winning, this could be a long day as candidates drop off one-by-one. It should also be a very interesting day.

21:52 - Thomas Mulcair wins with 57.2% of the vote (final update)

After the fourth and final ballot, and as expected, Thomas Mulcair has emerged as the winner of the NDP leadership convention, taking 57.2% of the vote. Final turnout, not aided by trouble with the voting that may have been the result of denial-of-service attacks, was around 45% of the 131,000 members eligible, after hitting a high of just under 50% on the first ballot.
Brian Topp finished with a respectable 42.8% of the vote, performing pretty well on the final ballot. Topp doubled his share from the first round, while Mulcair increased his by a little less than that. But it was a steady increase for Mulcair, from 30.3% to 38.3% to 43.8% and finally to 57.2%. What happened on that final ballot?
Though there was undoubtedly some cross-pollination between the Mulcair and Topp camps, Thomas Mulcair won by taking 53.7% of the new votes cast in the final round. His total increased by 6,393 votes. Topp took the remaining 46.3%, a surprisingly close division of Nathan Cullen's supporters, increasing his total by 5,507 votes. It seems that Cullen's positioning towards co-operation with the Liberals (which plays to Mulcair's place on the spectrum) and his geography as a British Columbian (which played to Topp's strength) divided the vote between the two candidates. It made the ending a lot closer than it might have otherwise been.

And that ends what has been an unexpectedly long day! In the end, the delays and seeming inevitability of Mulcair's victory starting after the second ballot took a bit of the buzz out of the convention. But when all the votes were counted, Mulcair received a very respectable share of the vote on the final ballot, more than Jack Layton managed in 2003 (though against many more candidates) and only a few ticks below Ed Broadbent's share in 1975.

What does this mean going forward? In the short term, the polls indicate that the New Democrats will not be hurt whatsoever outside of Quebec with Mulcair at the helm, and in Quebec the party should be expected to move back into first place ahead of the Bloc Québécois. After that? Who knows, 2015 is a long way away.

Thanks to everyone who checked in today! 

20:10 - Caucus falls behind Mulcair

Seeing the writing on the wall, the NDP caucus has overwhelmingly now fallen in line behind Thomas Mulcair. Since the third ballot, he picked up the support of Brian Masse, Megan Leslie, Denise Savoie, Dennis Bevington, Elaine Michaud, Bruce Hyer, and Fin Donnelly. Alexa McDonough, who originally endorsed Peggy Nash before aligning with Nathan Cullen, has also gone over to the Mulcair camp. Something like four out of every five aligned MPs have now endorsed Mulcair. The remainder are either former candidates or have remained neutral.
The result is that Mulcair's share of the endorsement points has now ballooned to 65.1% of the total. Will Mulcair actually get that much? I'd say that is unlikely. Something more along the lines of 55% to 60% is most probable. But it does give an indication of how the caucus, in addition to other party luminaries, has gone over to Thomas Mulcair.

19:15 - Lack of enthusiasm for final options?

Thomas Mulcair faces off against Brian Topp in the final round, but neither appears to be entering the final ballot with a great deal of enthusiastic support. Mulcair's growth has been steady and significant, but rather slow for someone who has been perceived as the frontrunner for quite some time.

Topp, despite receiving enthusiastic support from the party establishment, has been unable to really put together a large block of support from the membership. His growth was anemic on the second ballot and not nearly large enough on the third to give him any chance of winning.

Cullen landed some big names between ballots, but he still managed to out-perform the expectations of the endorsement system, registering almost 25% support. Topp is finally fulfilling some of his potential, while for the first time Mulcair scored beneath his share of the endorsement points. But I can't help but feel that had it been Cullen on the final ballot, a wave of enthusiasm could have swept his way. His campaign had the most momentum going into today, and it was maintained throughout the voting. It just wasn't enough in the end.

And in the end, despite all of the talk about grassroots campaigning and the like, the two best options from the perspective of the party establishment are going to end up on the final ballot. In that sense, I think the endorsement rankings have acted as a good baseline for comparison.

Mulcair is already announcing endorsements from MPs, including at least one that had remained neutral throughout the campaign, so it looks like the system will end up picking the right winner. But Brian Topp's failure to attract new supporters today is a telling sign of why he isn't closer to Thomas Mulcair going into the final ballot. That is not to say that between-ballot endorsements would have swung the balance towards Topp, but rather the lack of any interest to give him that support indicated a lack of faith in his ability to pull this one off.

18:53 - Mulcair insurmountable?

Though Mulcair did not take enough of Nash's votes to put this away on the third ballot, Topp did not take enough of it to put the outcome in doubt, either.
Thomas Mulcair captured 43.8% of the vote on the third ballot, picking up 3,586 votes in the process. He came up 3,880 votes short of winning a majority.

Brian Topp took 31.6% of the vote, making the largest leap in support and picking up 4,198 votes. He is 11,546 short of a majority, showing just how much more he needs to gain in order to win.

Put more simply, Brian Topp needs to take 75% of Nathan Cullen's votes in order to win. Such a huge swing is simply not going to happen.

Nathan Cullen ended up with 24.6% of the vote, a very good score considering where his campaign began. He captured 2,977 new votes on this last ballot.

Mulcair's ballot by ballot growth has been solid, as he has managed to pick up between 1/3rd and 2/5ths of votes on the table each time. It hasn't been enough to really put this away definitively, and with the votes not going any which way in any large degree so far, we can probably expect Cullen's supporters to split more evenly than what Topp would need to win.

But if Mulcair takes about 60% of Cullen's supporters, which seems plausible, he will end up with about 59% support overall, a good score on a final ballot. But even if it splits 50/50, Mulcair is still likely to walk away with 56% - a clear mandate going forward.

18:21 - Topp takes largest share of Nash votes, but not enough

The third ballot results are finally in, and Brian Topp has taken the largest share of Peggy Nash's support. But he did not take enough to have a shot at over-taking Thomas Mulcair on the fourth ballot, who seems sure to win.
Brian Topp took about 39% of the new votes cast in this third ballot, far greater than the second choice support he received on the second ballot. But it was not nearly the 60% or more that he needed to have any hope of over-taking Mulcair, who is likely to get the bulk of Nathan Cullen's voters.

Mulcair took 33.3% of the new votes, enough to ensure that he will be able to win on the fourth ballot. Nash was widely seen as the labour candidate, and to receive one-third support from that wing of the party is a pretty good sign that Thomas Mulcair is not the candidate of only one part of the NDP spectrum.

Nathan Cullen still did very well, taking over a quarter of Nash's votes. But it wasn't enough, though it was very unlikely that Cullen could survive to the final ballot. 

17:40 - Mulcair gets support of majority of caucus and former Ontario leader

With the support of Raymond Côté, who had supported Peggy Nash, Thomas Mulcair now has the support of 52 MPs, a clear majority of the party's 102 MPs (though, of course, that 102 number includes Mulcair). He also has the support of former Ontario NDP leader Mike Cassidy.

Combined, this increases Thomas Mulcair's share of the endorsement points to 49.5%, just short of the majority needed to win. Brian Topp has 33.6% of the endorsement points, while Nathan Cullen is in third with 16.9%.

Will Mulcair get that close to 50%? I don't think so - I think Brian Topp will get a good deal of Nash's support and so will probably be around the 34% mark. Nathan Cullen won't lose voters, so he will, by necessity, be above the 20% mark. That means that Mulcair is more likely to end up somewhere around 45% on the third ballot.

17:08 - The candidates' paths to victory

Brian Topp and Nathan Cullen do have a path to victory, but it would require a huge shift of support in their favour.

A third ballot victory by Thomas Mulcair is possible, but it would require a big boost from Peggy Nash's supporters. Assuming everyone holds on to all of his live voters, Mulcair needs 70% of Peggy Nash's supporters in order to win on the third ballot. That seems unlikely, considering he took 42.5% of the votes made available by Paul Dewar, Niki Ashton, and Martin Singh. But it is possible, whereas neither Topp nor Cullen can reach 50% without taking votes away from Mulcair.

On the fourth ballot, any of the candidates could potentially win. But Thomas Mulcair has the easiest job of it. If Cullen drops off after the third ballot, Mulcair would need only 32% of the votes that would be available from the Nash and Cullen camps. If Topp drops off, Mulcair would only need 28% of the available votes from the Nash and Topp camps.

For a fourth ballot Topp victory, he needs to take 68% of the vote made available from Nash and Cullen. This is difficult to envision, and would probably require massive support from Nash's voters, but it isn't impossible.

Nathan Cullen, on the other hand, would need 72% of votes from Topp and Nash's supporters, should Cullen and Mulcair face-off on the final ballot. Again, it is hard to see how Cullen would take so much of their votes against Mulcair.

Each candidate can conceivably come out on top, but it is looking very unlikely that either Brian Topp or Nathan Cullen can manage it. Topp's chances are, perhaps, the longest since he needs support from Cullen. It is, perhaps, easier to imagine Topp's supporters lining up behind Cullen instead of Mulcair than it is to see Cullen's supporters plumping for Topp. A Mulcair victory is looking inevitable, especially if the final ballot is one between him and Topp. 

16:13 - Mulcair approaching 50%

After a few major endorsements to both Nathan Cullen and Thomas Mulcair, the Outremont MP is now approaching 50% of endorsement points.
Mulcair has received the endorsements of MP Dany Morin, Ontario MPP Cheri DiNovo, and CUPE National. All three of these endorsements come from Peggy Nash, and that last one is huge in value, at least according to the ranking system.

Cullen picked up the support of MPs Denise Savoie and Irene Mathyseen and former leader Alexa McDonough. For Cullen, too, that last one is hugely valuable. And it is the first indication that the establishment is, to some extent, comfortable with him as leader.

Savoie and McDonough came from Peggy Nash, while Mathyssen originally endorsed Paul Dewar before throwing her support behind Peggy Nash.

What this means in the endorsement rankings is that Thomas Mulcair now has 48.4% of the endorsement points, just short of the 50% needed to win. The endorsement point share has followed Mulcair's total rather closely through the first and second ballots, so perhaps Mulcair is closer to 50% than we think. That he, rather than Topp, could get the support of a labour leader like Paul Moist indicates that Nash's supporters may not be so monolithic as one might think. Will Mulcair pick up enough of Nash's votes to hit 50%+1?

Topp now sits at 34.4% of all endorsement points, but he has tended to under-perform this indicator. Nathan Cullen, who has over-performed his endorsement point share, sits at 17.3%.

If what has happened on past ballots happens here on the third, we can expect Mulcair to be somewhere north of 48%, with Topp in the high-20s and Cullen in the low-20s.

One wonders, however, whether a fourth ballot will actually occur. If Mulcair does come out of the third ballot with 48% or so, will Topp concede? This convention is already dragging on way past schedule, and if Topp forces a fourth ballot the announcement of who will become the next leader could be pushed to 10 PM.

But if Mulcair does not pick up a lot of new supporters, and instead sits at 42% or so, with Cullen up to about 22% and Topp at 36%, perhaps Topp would be surrendering the opportunity to win.

14:55 - Second ballot over- and under-achievers

Thomas Mulcair's second ballot results continue to hug relatively close to the endorsement rankings, indicating that his establishment support mirrors his membership support - and better than any other candidate.
Mulcair had 36% of the endorsement points after the first ballot and all of the between-ballot endorsements were announced, and he took 38.3% of the vote. He once again over-achieved his endorsement share by a small amount, enough, again, to indicate that he is generally meeting expectations within the party establishment.

Brian Topp took 25% of the vote after having 29.3% of the endorsement points. He gained no new endorsements between the first and second ballots, and he also took the smallest share of new votes on the second ballot. It might be a coincidence, but it might also be a sign that he simply does not have strong second-ballot support.

But Nash took a lot of that new vote, and that is a strong indication that she was the second choice of many Dewar and Ashton supporters. The question now becomes - who was their third choice? This is what makes this race unpredictable. Past the first and second choice, what motivates a decision might be very different between one person and the next.

In any case, Topp continues to under-achieve, compared to his establishment support. But not as much as Peggy Nash, who despite gaining new endorsers between ballots, still only took 16.8% of the vote after having 27.6% of the endorsement points. Whether or not the ranking system has anything to it, it is absolutely certain that Nash has under-achieved expectations by a very significant degree.

Nathan Cullen, of course, continues to be the over-achiever. He did gain an endorsement between the ballots but he didn't grow as much as he needs to in order to have a shot. He won't go from being just below 20% to over 50% between now and the fourth ballot. But he has done better than a lot of people expected. A fourth place finish was envisioned, but being in the final three? That was, perhaps, well beyond what most people realistically thought would happen.

14:25 - Mulcair likely to win on fourth ballot

Thomas Mulcair widened his lead on the second ballot, making it all the more likely that he will emerge as the eventual victor. But will it take one or two more ballots?
After the second ballot, Thomas Mulcair now stands at 38.3% support, more than 13 points ahead of Brian Topp, who has only grown a little to 25%. Nathan Cullen grew to 19.9% while Peggy Nash made the largest leap among the second-tier candidates, reaching 16.8%. But it wasn't enough, and Nash has been dropped off the ballot.

Mulcair is in a good position, but it does not appear like he can win on the next ballot as he would need about 2/3rds of Nash's support in order to reach the 50% mark. That seems very unlikely, considering how far apart the two are on the NDP's spectrum. More likely is that Topp gets that share of Nash's supporters, which could boost him up to about 36% support. That would still put him behind Mulcair.

Is there a plausible route for a Topp victory? Cullen's supporters are a little tricky - with Cullen's plan to have joint nominations, one would expect them to support Mulcair as beating the Conservatives seems to be their priority. But, Cullen has a lot of support in British Columbia, a province in which Topp also has a lot of support.

For argument's sake, let's give Topp all of Nash's supporters. That increases his score to 41.8% of the vote, putting him ahead of Mulcair, who will remain at 38.3%. But where do Cullen's supporters go? At that point, Topp would need to win more than 41% of Cullen's votes. That seems like a stretch, particularly when the vast majority of ballots have already been locked in.

If Topp instead gets 66% of Nash's vote and Mulcair gets the remaining 33%, Topp would need 70% of Cullen's voters. That just doesn't seem likely.

Anything could still happen, but it is difficult to envision anyone but Thomas Mulcair winning this. 

13:59 - Mulcair takes 42.5% of new votes on second ballot

Thomas Mulcair picked up 42.5% of the new votes cast in order to reach 38.3% and place first on the second ballot, well ahead of Brian Topp and Nathan Cullen. Peggy Nash did take more of the new votes on the second ballot than either Cullen or Topp, taking 22% to Cullen's 18.1% and Topp's 17.4%, but it wasn't enough to survive.
Mulcair's second ballot support was pretty significant, but it would appear that he did not take a huge amount of votes from either Paul Dewar or Niki Ashton, if we assume that the vast majority of Martin Singh's voters went to him (which we can't know).

Dangerous for Brian Topp, however, is that he did not have strong second ballot support. Cullen gained more of the newly available votes, though we can probably assume that a lot of Peggy Nash's supporters will now go to Brian Topp on the third ballot.

13:24 - Who over-achieved, who under-achieved

If the endorsement rankings provide a baseline of how to look at the first ballot results compared to support within the establishment of the party, we can take a look at who over- and under-achieved expectations.
Looking at it from this perspective, we can say that Thomas Mulcair and Niki Ashton did about as well as expected. Mulcair had wide support within the party establishment going into the convention, but while that support was broad it was not very deep. The support of people like Charlie Angus, Claude Gravelle, Linda Duncan, and Carol Hughes helps on that score going into the second ballot.

Ashton handled herself well and received good support for such a young candidate, making her a rising star within the party. Anything more was never very likely.

The under-achievers are Brian Topp, Peggy Nash, and Paul Dewar. Topp had big supporters but wasn't able to deliver on that support, at least entirely. But the perception that Topp had fallen to the back of the frontrunners means that, to a large degree, Topp has over-achieved expectations. Most seemed to expect him to place third, fourth, or even fifth. As I mentioned in my first post this morning, I always thought Topp was going to do better, and the endorsement rankings demonstrated why.

Nash and Dewar both seriously under-achieved. Both had good caucus support, good labour support, good provincial support, and good support from past and current NDP leaders throughout the country. Yet they each scored a little bit better than half of what was expected. That they under-performed so poorly is the big news of the first ballot.

Then we get to the over-achievers: Martin Singh and Nathan Cullen. Singh proved that he did indeed sign up a good number of supporters, managing to place ahead of Ashton. Cullen, again as I mentioned in this morning's first post, over-achieved as expected. He has good support from the membership, particular member-rich British Columbia, but hasn't lined up the establishment support. However, Christy Clark and Alison Redford, to name but two recent examples, won their leadership races without wide caucus or party support.

I'd also say, however, that Cullen over-achieved the expectations of his over-achievement. Though his 16.4% isn't too much of a surprise, that he was able to place third ahead of Peggy Nash is significant.

That makes Nathan Cullen and Brian Topp the first ballot's moral winners. Cullen proved that his idea has support and Topp proved that he deserves to be one of the top frontrunners. But, of course, Thomas Mulcair is the real winner of the first ballot. Though it was perhaps unrealistic to think he needed to have 35%+ on the first ballot in order to win, particularly with seven names on that ballot, he could have done better. But the lead over Topp is wide and important, and I think Lorne Nystrom had it right when he told Rosemary Barton (I think it was) that they were hoping to win about 30% but, more importantly, have an 8 to 10 point lead. Nystrom was quite on the ball on that one, at least in judging likely first ballot support.

12:42 - Mathyssen to Nash

To further hit the point home, Irene Mathyssen, who had also endorsed Paul Dewar, has now moved her support to Peggy Nash.

That drops Mulcair's share of the endorsement points to 36.2% to 29.2% for Topp, 27.4% for Nash, and 7.2% for Cullen. Nash will need to get a lot of that Dewar support in order to survive, and at least Dewar's caucus supporters are moving to Nash (and Mulcair) instead of Topp, despite having placed well ahead of Nash.

12:30 - Nash and Mulcair pick up two MPs

Peggy Nash has received the endorsement of Christine Moore, who had originally endorsed Paul Dewar, and Thomas Mulcair has the support of Hélène Laverdière, who had originally endorsed Dewar as well and has a notch for Gilles Duceppe on her club.

This keeps Thomas Mulcair at 36.5% of the endorsement point share, while Brian Topp is down to 29.5% and Peggy Nash is up to 26.7%.

Why isn't Brian Topp getting any new caucus support? This may be an indication of how second ballot support from Dewar and Ashton may go to Peggy Nash.

12:01 -  Who drops off next?

Peggy Nash has picked up the support of Rathika Sitsabaiesan, an MP who had not supported one candidate or another before today's convention. This has bumped her up a little.
But the question now becomes - who will drop off next? Obviously, Peggy Nash has the most ground to make up but the supporters of the candidates who have dropped off (Martin Singh, Niki Ashton, and Paul Dewar) are more likely to move to Nash or another candidate rather than Nathan Cullen. Might Cullen have hit a plateau?

Nash needs 2,319 of the almost 13,000 votes that are now newly available in order to surpass Cullen. Of course, Cullen will pick up some new votes so Nash needs to gain at least 2,319 more votes than Cullen does on the second ballot. In a delegated convention this might have been impossible as Dewar's supporters would have likely gone to Brian Topp as he has become the frontrunner from the left of the party. But since 85% of the ballots are already locked-in, and Peggy Nash was generally seen as ahead of Brian Topp, a lot of those Dewar ballots may go to Nash, while Topp might pick up most of the new ballots being cast today.

This gives Nash a chance to move ahead of Cullen on the second ballot, which may be very important. If the third ballot includes Mulcair, Topp, and Nash, Mulcair is likely to benefit from Cullen's supporters. But if the third ballot is made up of Mulcair, Topp, and Cullen, Topp is likely to benefit most from Nash's supporters.

At that point, and if one of the candidates isn't over the 50% mark, the ballots on the convention floor could become very important. There is still a lot to play out, and with the camps generally aligning between Mulcair/Cullen and Topp/Nash, at least in terms of voting blocks, how things go on this second ballot could be very important.

11:16 - Mulcair picks up more endorsements

So far, Thomas Mulcair has picked up the lion's share of new endorsements, getting the support of MPs Claude Gravelle, Linda Duncan, and Charlie Angus from Paul Dewar's camp and François Choquette and Carole Hughes from Niki Ashton's camp. Mulcair also got the endorsement of the IAMAW.

Nathan Cullen got the support of MP Dennis Bevington, who had originally endorsed Paul Dewar.

The end result is that Mulcair's share of the endorsement points (which was actually quite close to his first ballot results the first go around) has increased to 36.6%, while Brian Topp stands at 29.8% and Peggy Nash at 26.3%. Nathan Cullen is up to 7.3%, so his establishment support is still well below his support within the membership.

I don't imagine that Peggy Nash will be able to increase her support to 26.3%, but there is a good chance that many of Paul Dewar's 4,900 votes will go to her, as well as a chunk of Niki Ashton's 3,700 votes.

10:44 - How the votes have moved since February

In mid-February, the Paul Dewar and Thomas Mulcair camps released internal polls of NDP members. You can see the details here. Assuming the average of the two polls were accurate, what has happened since then?

Thomas Mulcair had an average of 28.3% in those polls, so his support has slightly increased to 30.3%. But that is close enough to say that he has held steady in support.

Brian Topp, however, had an average of only 13.8% in the polls. he picked up a big chunk of support, increasing his vote share by half. Did Ed Broadbent's comments move support into the Topp camp?

Nathan Cullen averaged 13.5%, and has bumped his support up slightly to 16.4%. This would seem to jive with the perceived "momentum" he has had over the last two months.

But Peggy Nash - her support dropped from 17.2% on the first ballot in the poll to only 12.8%. It is difficult to discern why that might have happened. Was her support never as strong as supposed? Did Brian Topp emerge as the better anti-Mulcair candidate? What happened to the Nash campaign?

Paul Dewar averaged 14.5% in those polls, but he dropped to only 7.5% on the first ballot. His lack of French skills might have done him in, as he had no other major weakness against the other non-Mulcair options.

In total, Mulcair, Topp, and Cullen gained 12.5 points over the February polls while Dewar and Nash shed 11.4 points. It would appear, then, that Dewar's and Nash's support moved over to the other three candidates over the past two months, and that Brian Topp was the biggest beneficiary. If the polls had it right in pegging the situation in February, Topp took roughly 2/3rds of the support lost by Paul Dewar and Peggy Nash since then. 

10:22 - Turnout below 50%

By my count, the turnout for the first ballot was only 49.8%. That has to be pretty disappointing, considering that the party membership ballooned to 131,000. If 55,000 locked in their ballots, and there are (IIRC) 4,600 members in Toronto, that means about 5,500 NDP members voted from home. That puts the share of locked-in votes at around 85%, with only 15% votes liable to move about over the course of the day.

That is, if the number doesn't increase. Many members did not vote in the first ballot but they are eligible to vote in the second. If that number doesn't go up by a lot, we're talking about roughly 10,000 of the 65,000 votes at play today.

10:14 - Shocking results for Paul Dewar and Peggy Nash

The first ballot results are out and they are quite surprising. Niki Ashton will drop off automatically, and Martin Singh and Paul Dewar have voluntarily dropped off.
Thomas Mulcair's result is on the low side and will make things difficult for him moving forward, while Brian Topp's is quite good and puts him in second - the candidate many placed in fourth or fifth.

Nathan Cullen has taken about what was expected, the polls of party members had indicated he had good support.

But only 12.8% for Peggy Nash? She was supposed to be one of the major frontrunners. This has to be incredibly disappointing for her, as she was seen as someone who could be the anti-Mulcair, consensus choice.

The 7.5% for Paul Dewar is rather shocking. Many thought he could do much better. He likely has a lot of second and third ballot support, but he would have needed Brian Topp or Peggy Nash to drop off in order to get those ballots. 

09:49 - Mulcair lands Nova Scotia endorsements, increases lead

There was only one set of new endorsements that were revealed since my last NDP endorsement update on Wednesday morning. Thomas Mulcair received the support of six Nova Scotia MLAs, including ministers in Darrell Dexter's cabinet: Bill Estabrooks, Sterling Beliveau, and John MacDonnell. Clarrie MacKinnon, Jim Boudreau, and Gary Ramey also endorsed Mulcair.

These six MLAs give Mulcair an extra three endorsement points, bumping him up to 28.9% of the total. Brian Topp has dropped to 26.4% of the share while Peggy Nash is down to 23.3%.

The other candidates have not budged: Paul Dewar 12.8%, Nathan Cullen 5.6%, and Niki Ashton 3.0%.

How are the first ballot results likely to differ from the endorsement rankings? Thomas Mulcair will need to be well over 30% to have a good chance of taking the leadership, and word is that he should be over that mark. The polls, few and far between as they are, have indicated that Brian Topp could have as little as half of the support among the membership that he has among the establishment, but I have an inkling that he will perform somewhat above expectations. Peggy Nash is likely to get something around the 23% of the endorsement points she has, while Paul Dewar could do a little better. I expect Nathan Cullen to do much better, as he is the epitome of a "membership candidate", while Niki Ashton will probably be pretty close and Martin Singh will, undoubtedly, catch more votes than zero.
What will I be watching for when the first ballots come in, some time between 10:00 AM and 10:30 AM?

The most important is the number that Thomas Mulcair will put up. Anything below 35% will make things difficult for him, while every point above 35% makes his eventual victory all the more likely.

The other thing I will be watching is the order of the candidates. Because of how the preferential voting works, who drops off first makes an enormous difference - the supporters of Nathan Cullen will likely have a very different second choice than the supporters of Brian Topp, for instance. And the person who looks like the top anti-Mulcair candidate may get a lot of second ballot support within the convention and across the country among the members watching the leadership convention from home.

The last thing I will be looking for is a turnout. About 55,000 NDP members have already locked their votes in, and there are over 4,000 NDP members in Toronto. At the very least, then, we can expect turnout to be around 46%. How many people will be voting from home? If that numbers turns out to be low, the way the day plays out will be mostly independent from what actually happens on the convention floor. If that number turns out to be high, say 20,000 or more, then this convention will be very important.