Monday, January 14, 2013

Who has the easier path to OLP victory?

The voting for the Ontario Liberal leadership took place over the weekend, with Sandra Pupatello and Kathleen Wynne emerging as the two frontrunners. Though the counts differ depending on the source, it appears that Sandra Pupatello has emerged with 27% of elected delegates and Kathleen Wynne with 25%. That puts either of them in the best position to win the race to be premier on January 26.

Gerard Kennedy placed third with 14% of the delegates, followed by Harinder Takhar at 13%, Charles Sousa at 11%, and Eric Hoskins with 6%. Another 4% were elected as independents, many of them supporters of Glen Murray.

If the last Ontario Liberal leadership convention is any guide, this could potentially still be anyone's game. More realistically, however, the race is between Pupatello and Wynne. In the 1996 OLP leadership race, Dalton McGuinty did win after placing fourth on the first ballot and Stéphane Dion won the 2006 federal Liberal race after placing third out of the gate. But in both cases, they started out with 18% support and were 11 or 12 points behind the leader.

Kennedy, Takhar, and Sousa are all well below that 18% and Kennedy trails Pupatello by 14 points among the elected delegates. It is a bit of a stretch to imagine a scenario where anyone but Wynne or Pupatello wins, though it is not impossible, as we will see.

One of the factors complicating the calculations are the ex-officio delegates. These are current and former MPPs, party brass, current Ontario MPs, and others. They are not tied to any candidate on the first ballot, like the elected delegates are.

In order to make some estimates on how the voting might go at the convention, it is necessary to distribute the ex-officio delegates which, again depending on the source in this wonderfully opaque process, number between 419 and "about 600". From what I have seen, however, 419 is probably closer to the real number.

Since these delegates are from the party establishment, it makes sense to distribute these delegates according to the endorsements each of the candidates have piled up. If we look only at current MPs and MPPs and former MPPs, we get the following distribution of ex-officio delegates:

Sandra Pupatello - 47%, or about 200
Kathleen Wynne - 30%, or about 125
Gerard Kennedy - 12%, or about 50
Eric Hoskins - 9%, or about 35
Charles Sousa - 3%, or about 10
Harinder Takhar - 0%

But before estimating the first ballot, the independent delegates need to be portioned out. A look at the 1996 OLP and 2006 LPC races suggests that, when an endorsement is made, about 70% of those delegates will go where they are directed. The remaining 30% generally drift to the other candidates evenly. That means that Kathleen Wynne picks up 47 of the independent elected delegates, with the others getting four apiece.

Now that we have established the number of ex-officio and independent delegates each candidate might get, we can make an estimate of what the first ballot could look like:


Sandra Pupatello - 708 votes, 31%
Kathleen Wynne - 635 votes, 28%
Gerard Kennedy - 311 votes, 14%
Harinder Takhar - 248 votes, 11%
Charles Sousa - 212 votes, 9%
Eric Hoskins - 143 votes, 6%

Where do we go from here? Let's assume that both Hoskins and Sousa drop out of the race at this point, and that any endorsements will result in 70% of votes going to the endorsed candidate and the rest being distributed evenly. Let's also assume that the vote of the 4th place candidate, in this case Takhar, drops on the second ballot. In the 1996 and 2006 races, support for candidates outside of the top tier dropped on the second ballot, undoubtedly due to their prospects for winning looking so slim.

Sandra Pupatello has the best position, as if she maintains her lead throughout the balloting (like Thomas Mulcair did in the 2012 NDP leadership race), she will win. In other words, if no candidate makes an endorsement, Pupatello wins in this exercise. Momentum could also work in her favour, as the longer she stays in front on the balloting the more likely she is to get more support from ex-officio delegates. But Wynne has some easy paths to victory as well. Let's look at the scenarios.

WYNNE VICTORY #1 - Hoskins, Sousa, Kennedy to Wynne, Takhar to Pupatello

In this first scenario, Torontonians Hoskins and Sousa decide to lend their support to Wynne, resulting in this second ballot (in this and other scenarios, the total number of votes may not remain constant, as is usually the case when trying to corral 2,000+ to vote):

Kathleen Wynne - 884 votes, 40%
Sandra Pupatello - 760 votes, 34%
Gerard Kennedy - 363 votes, 16%
Harinder Takhar - 213 votes, 10%

Takhar goes to Pupatello but she does not take the lead on the third ballot, when Kennedy drops off and lends his support to Wynne. That results in the following final ballot:

Kathleen Wynne - 1,122 votes, 52.9%
Sandra Pupatello - 998 votes, 47.1%

In this case, Wynne's victory is at its largest due to the momentum swinging to her on the second ballot. If something like this occurs, she will likely win.

WYNNE VICTORY #2 - Hoskins and Sousa neutral, Takhar to Pupatello, Kennedy to Wynne

The second scenario sees neither Sousa nor Hoskins lending their support to any of the candidates. In that case, the second ballot looks like this:

Sandra Pupatello - 826 votes, 38%
Kathleen Wynne - 753 votes, 35%
Gerard Kennedy - 429 votes, 20%
Harinder Takhar - 159 votes, 7%

Takhar drops off the ballot and lends his support to Pupatello. If that occurs, the third ballot looks like this:

Sandra Pupatello - 937 votes, 43%
Kathleen Wynne - 777 votes, 36%
Gerard Kennedy - 453 votes, 21%

Now Kennedy drops off the ballot, and decides the race by endorsing Wynne:

Kathleen Wynne - 1,094 votes, 50.5%
Sandra Pupatello - 1,073 votes, 49.5%

Theoretically, Pupatello could win if Kennedy does not endorse anyone but one assumes that a good portion of Kennedy's support would go to Wynne rather than Pupatello. The result, then, is that Kathleen Wynne wins.

WYNNE/PUPATELLO TIE - Hoskins, Takhar to Pupatello, Sousa, Kennedy to Wynne

Another interesting scenario would result in a virtual tie, meaning either candidate would have a good shot at winning. This assumes that, after the first ballot, Hoskins lends his support to Pupatello and Sousa gives his to Wynne.

Sandra Pupatello - 839 votes, 38%
Kathleen Wynne - 803 votes, 36%
Gerard Kennedy - 352 votes, 16%
Harinder Takhar - 217 votes, 10%

At this point, Takhar goes to Pupatello and Kennedy goes to Wynne, resulting in this final ballot:

Sandra Pupatello - 1,106 votes, 50.1%
Kathleen Wynne - 1,104 votes, 49.9%

There are more than enough assumptions made in this analysis for this scenario to be way too close to call.

PUPATELLO VICTORY #1 - Sousa, Takhar to Pupatello, Hoskins, Kennedy to Wynne

If Pupatello gets Sousa and Takhar to her tent, she has a much better chance of winning. Here is how the second ballot plays out if Sousa goes to Pupatello and Hoskins to Wynne:

Sandra Pupatello - 876 votes, 40%
Kathleen Wynne - 766 votes, 35%
Gerard Kennedy - 352 votes, 16%
Harinder Takhar - 217 votes, 10%

With her larger lead, the support that Takhar gives her makes the difference. Kennedy does not have enough support to give Wynne the victory:

Sandra Pupatello - 1,143 votes, 51.7%
Kathleen Wynne - 1,067 votes, 48.3%

It is still rather close, and again the number of assumptions being made gives this entire exercise a rather large margin of error.

PUPATELLO VICTORY #2 - Sousa neutral, Hoskins, Takhar to Pupatello, Kennedy to Wynne

If Sousa stays neutral after the first ballot but Hoskins goes over to Pupatello, then the second ballot looks like:

Sandra Pupatello - 882 votes, 40%
Kathleen Wynne - 719 votes, 33%
Gerard Kennedy - 395 votes, 18%
Harinder Takhar - 185 votes, 8%

Here again, the lead that Pupatello holds makes Takhar's support the deciding factor.

Sandra Pupatello - 1,138 votes, 52.2%
Kathleen Wynne - 1,043 votes, 47.8%

PUPATELLO VICTORY #3 - Hoskins neutral, Sousa, Takhar to Pupatello, Kennedy to Wynne

Pupatello's victory gets larger when Hoskins stays neutral and Sousa goes to her camp. In that case, the final ballot would be:

Sandra Pupatello - 1,167 votes, 53.2%
Kathleen Wynne - 1,028 votes, 46.8%

And, of course, her victory gets even larger if she gets Hoskins, Sousa, and Takhar on her side throughout the balloting. At any point, Pupatello's chances of victory get slimmer if Takhar stays neutral but Kennedy sides with Wynne. If Kennedy stays neutral, then Wynne is in a difficult position. It makes horse-trading absolutely necessary.

But, within the bounds of this theoretical exercise, other candidates could win as well.

SOUSA VICTORY - Everyone to Sousa

Charles Sousa does have a path to victory, but it is not an easy one. He would need every dropped-off candidate to endorse him, and deliver their delegates, at each ballot. Assuming Takhar also picks up support on the second ballot, and with Hoskins's support going to Sousa, that second ballot would be:

Sandra Pupatello - 718 votes, 32%
Kathleen Wynne - 645 votes, 29%
Gerard Kennedy - 321 votes, 14%
Charles Sousa - 312 votes, 14%
Harinder Takhar - 258 votes, 11%

For the third ballot, Takhar would need to send his support Sousa's way in order for him to overtake Kennedy:

Sandra Pupatello - 744 votes, 33%
Kathleen Wynne - 671 votes, 30%
Charles Sousa - 493 votes, 22%
Gerard Kennedy - 347 votes, 15%

At this point, Kennedy would also have to endorse Sousa:

Sandra Pupatello - 796 votes, 35%
Charles Sousa - 735 votes, 33%
Kathleen Wynne - 723 votes, 32%

But you can see how fraught this path to victory is for Sousa. He ends up ahead of Wynne by 12 votes, a margin that is very small considering the assumptions being made. At this point, though, he could easily win with Wynne's support:

Charles Sousa - 1,241 votes, 54.8%
Sandra Pupatello - 1,025 votes, 45.2%

What are the odds, though, that the candidate one up from the bottom would receive an endorsement at each step of the way? And would the ex-officio delegates perhaps not move strongly way from Sousa  - too strongly for Sousa to over-take Wynne on the third ballot?

TAKHAR  VICTORY - Everyone to Takhar

Takhar's path is similarly unlikely, especially considering that he has not a single endorsement to his name at this stage of the race. After the first ballot, he could overtake Kennedy with just Hoskins's support, with Sousa then dropping off the second ballot and lending his support to Takhar as well:

Sandra Pupatello - 743 votes, 33%
Kathleen Wynne - 670 votes, 30%
Harinder Takhar - 496 votes, 22%
Gerard Kennedy - 346 votes, 15%

And then Kennedy would need to go Takhar's way, which is far less imaginable than Kennedy choosing Sousa over Wynne:

Sandra Pupatello - 795 votes, 35%
Harinder Takhar - 738 votes, 33%
Kathleen Wynne - 722 votes, 32%

And now we need to assume that the ex-officios do not go en masse to Pupatello to prevent Takhar from winning (recall, she currently leads endorsements) and that Wynne prefers Takhar to Pupatello, in order to get:

Harinder Takhar - 1,243 votes, 55.1%
Sandra Pupatello - 1,012 votes, 44.9%

This is the scenario that is hardest to envision, as Takhar is not seen as anyone's consensus second choice. Sousa could conceivably fill that role, but again we're stretching the imagination.

KENNEDY VICTORY - Everyone to Kennedy

But what about the candidate that Ontarians would choose if they were voting? It is not too much of a stretch to imagine the losing candidates deciding to go with the popular choice, at least in terms of name recognition. After all, the next election might be weeks away - no time for an introduction to Pupatello or Wynne.

Sandra Pupatello - 749 votes, 34%
Kathleen Wynne - 676 votes, 31%
Gerard Kennedy - 569 votes, 26%
Harinder Takhar - 217 votes, 10%

Joining Hoskins and Sousa, Takhar decides to go against the establishment and sends his supporters to Kennedy for the third ballot:

Sandra Pupatello - 781 votes, 35%
Gerard Kennedy - 721 votes, 33%
Kathleen Wynne - 708 votes, 32%

At this point, a path to Kennedy's victory is easy to see. Having edged out Wynne, she could lend her support directly to Kennedy and give him a big victory:

Gerard Kennedy - 1,216 votes, 55%
Sandra Pupatello - 994 votes, 45%

But if Wynne decided to stay neutral, Kennedy would only need to carry a little more than 54% of her supporters in order to beat out Pupatello. That is not difficult to imagine, as Kennedy and Wynne share more of a constituency than Wynne and Pupatello.

This means that the leadership is very much up for grabs, and that the machinations on the convention floor will be hugely important. Kathleen Wynne and Sandra Pupatello have the easiest paths to victory. Gerard Kennedy and Charles Sousa also have a not-implausible way to win it, while Harinder Takhar could mathematically emerge as a victor as well.

Much will depend on where the ex-officio delegates go - if they plump for Pupatello by a larger margin on the first ballot, it will be hers. If they instead go to Wynne, she will be in the much better position. Couple that with the potential for candidates to lose control of their delegates through the balloting process, and the race really is anyone's to win. But with their large lead in elected delegates and advantage among the party establishment, the safest money is on Pupatello or Wynne.