Thursday, January 24, 2013

With Takhar, does Kennedy stand a chance?

A report in the Toronto Star this morning says that Gerard Kennedy, who finished third in the delegate elections for the Ontario Liberal leadership race, is pushing hard to court Harinder Takhar, who finished fourth. Takhar's support would vault Kennedy into second place among elected delegates, making a path for the leadership much easier to map out. But just how easy is it?

After what happened in the last two delegated conventions for the federal and provincial Liberals, many suspect that a third-place finisher like Kennedy could work his way to the top through the balloting process. But Rob Silver, writing for Maclean's, does an excellent job of showing that Dalton McGuinty and Stéphane Dion's recent victories were exceptions rather than the rule. In addition, the mountain Kennedy has to climb is steeper than either McGuinty or Dion managed in their leadership wins.

But what if Kennedy was able to get Takhar over to his side? Takhar is probably the biggest fish to land in the OLP leadership race, as he is likely to have much more sway over his delegates than those of the other candidates. It is not hard to imagine that Takhar could justify moving over to Kennedy instead of Sandra Pupatello, who many have seen as the candidate he is most likely to support. Takhar would have much more to gain from being the kingmaker for Kennedy than he would being just one piece of Pupatello's victory. With her lead among the elected and ex-officio delegates, Pupatello could probably win without an explicit endorsement from Takhar. Kennedy would have a much bigger favour to return.

When I last mapped out the OLP convention, I did not consider the possibility of Takhar moving over to Kennedy (except in the scenario where I had Charles Sousa and Eric Hoskins endorsing him as well). So let's run the exercise again, with a few different assumptions.

First, we have to re-allocate the ex-officio delegates based on the endorsements that have been made since my original post. Instead of just doing a simple count, I will use the endorsement points system that I am currently employing for the federal Liberal leadership race. Note that the system is designed for federal races, but that it was also calibrated in part with provincial races.


Sandra Pupatello - 212 points - 48.8%
Kathleen Wynne - 131 points - 30.1%
Gerard Kennedy - 37.5 points - 8.6%
Eric Hoskins - 29.5 points - 6.8%
Charles Sousa - 17 points - 3.9%
Harinder Takhar - 7.5 points - 1.7%

This is one case where I suspect the endorsement rankings will lean too heavily towards the frontrunner, and will almost certainly reverse the order of the bottom three. It is extremely unlikely that Pupatello will come that close to winning, or even approaching 40%, on the first ballot. Instead, we will use this to distribute the 419 ex-officio delegates, with Pupatello taking 205, Wynne 126, Kennedy 36, Hoskins 29, Sousa 16, and Takhar seven.

We also have to distribute the 67 independent delegates that were elected. Instead of giving Wynne 70% of them, as I did last time due to Glen Murray's endorsement, I will give her 50% and distribute the rest proportionate to their elected and estimated ex-officio delegate support. That gives us the following first ballot estimate:


Sandra Pupatello - 729 delegates - 32.0%
Kathleen Wynne - 628 delegates - 27.6%
Gerard Kennedy - 302 delegates - 13.3%
Harinder Takhar - 256 delegates - 11.2%
Charles Sousa - 224 delegates - 9.8%
Eric Hoskins - 137 delegates - 6.0%

Compared to the first ballot estimate I made in my previous post, Pupatello and Sousa picked up an extra point while Kennedy dropped one.

Now that we have made a plausible estimate of first ballot support, let's see how Takhar's support could change the race for Kennedy. We will assume that Hoskins and Sousa drop out and decline to make an endorsement, releasing their delegates. We will distribute their delegates proportionately to the top three candidates only. That gives us the following result:

Sandra Pupatello - 887 delegates - 39.0%
Kathleen Wynne - 765 delegates - 33.6%
Gerard Kennedy - 368 delegates - 16.2%
Harinder Takhar - 256 delegates - 11.2%

And now we see the problem. If Takhar publicly endorsed Kennedy and asked his delegates to support him, even with all 256 of them voting for Kennedy he would end up with only 624 delegates and 27.4% support. That still leaves him behind Wynne and forced to drop-off the ballot. Without higher ex-officio delegate support, he would need Takhar's endorsement to influence a large number of delegates that have already supported Pupatello and Wynne to go his way.

Could he have picked them up after the first and second ballots from Sousa and Hoskins? Instead of getting 18.3% of their delegates, as I awarded him earlier, he would need to get some 38%, and all of them coming from Wynne, dropping her to 18% of the Sousa and Hoskins delegates. That does not seem like a plausible scenario - if Kennedy took a larger share of the Sousa and Hoskins delegates, some of them would undoubtedly come from Pupatello instead of Wynne, increasing the number he would need.

Kennedy would stand a chance if he managed to capture some 50% of the delegates that initially supported Sousa and Hoskins, or if he was able to attract those delegates committed to Pupatello and Wynne on the first ballot. But if he was able to take 50% of the delegates released by Sousa and Hoskins, with the rest going to Pupatello and Wynne proportionately, we would get this result:

Sandra Pupatello - 826 delegates - 36.3%
Kathleen Wynne - 711 delegates - 31.2%
Gerard Kennedy - 483 delegates - 21.2%
Harinder Takhar - 256 delegates - 11.2%

Mathematically, it is now possible for Takhar's support to vault him into second place, pushing Wynne off the ballot. But it is not exactly an easy task: he needs 229 of the 256 delegates alloted to Takhar in this scenario, or 89.5%, with all of the remaining delegates going to Pupatello. If even 10 of those delegates went to Wynne instead, Kennedy would need over 93% of Takhar's delegates. In addition to Kennedy taking half of the delegates who supported Sousa and Hoskins, could Takhar really deliver almost the totality of his elected delegates? It starts to stretch the imagination.

Kennedy needs the convention to go incredibly well for him. Unless he somehow becomes an establishment favourite and picks up a swathe of ex-officios (which, considering his history, seems improbable), he probably needs Takhar to endorse him immediately after the first ballot if he can't somehow get Hoskins or Sousa to do so. With Kennedy managing such a coup after the first ballot, he might be able to show himself to be the candidate with the momentum, giving him the necessary support from Hoskins and Sousa. Otherwise, it is difficult to see why those delegates committed to Sousa or Hoskins would vote for Kennedy instead of one of the frontrunners, or why the delegates committed to Pupatello or Wynne would suddenly jump ship. The numbers are there for Kennedy, but the odds are very slim.