Monday, August 14, 2006

Folding and Holding - Maurizio and Rae

For those following the Liberal leadership race - which is about 0.1% of the population - the big news today was Maurizio Bevilacqua's withdrawal and support of Rae.

My own view is that this is quite bad for Dion and Kennedy and not all bad for Ignatieff. MI is clearly the frontrunner and has to hope that a clear Anybody-But-Ignatieff candidate does not emerge too early. Leaving aside his obvious talents, Bob Rae is not that candidate - he is too polarizing and still too haunted by his term in Ontario. Dion or Kennedy could be that candidate, so the shift in momentum to Rae and away from them makes them the big losers today. Ignatieff would have done well to get Bevilacqua's support, but I suspect he wasn't offering what the Rae team was.

Immediate and most certainly wrong explanations aside, this does raise the more general question of when is the optimal time for candidates to exit a race? I've sketched out a couple of quick and dirty models of this today, and this is where my thinking is at. First, assume that a candidate's utility is a function of the final place in which they finish less their expected place and less the cost of being in the race. The cost of remaining in the race is a function of the money they have to expend to reach any given point and the opportunity cost of not supporting another candidate earlier.

Take the case of a candidate like Carolyn Bennett. Expectations are, shall we say, not terribly high for her (though finishing sixth would be much better than finishing last). Whatever place she finishes in, expectations are not high, so that cost term is minimal. Now, provided she can keep her costs down, her cost for staying in the race need not be high in monetary terms. Moreover, as expectations are not high for her (especially in terms of the delegates she will collect), then her support is not worth terribly much right now. She is probably better to go to the convention where she can sell her support at a premium on the convention floor. For her, the upside is in staying in. The same, I think, can be said for Hall Findley and Fry.

But what of middling candidates like Brison and Dryden? They are almost certain to finish sixth or worse. They are not sixth place caliber candidates, so a finish at that level is almost certain to disappoint. Moreover, by the time one of them is off the ballot at the convention the die will likely be cast and the winner apparent. The support of the remaining candidate isn't worth a lot then. Add to this the cost of running full-on national campaigns and the costs quickly outweigh the benefits. If they were to drop out of the race now, however, they could tell a story like Maurizio about how they are actually in the top five but how it is best for the party that they throw their weight behind another candidate. And they can do it at a higher price as momentum is now a highly sought commodity.

As for candidates who will finish fourth or better, I think all the calculations go out the window. A lot of things can happen on a convention floor, and the probability of winning is probably evenly distributed between the second, third and fourth place candidates, regardless of whatever they may be offered prior to the convention.

The only remaining question is what you do when no one wants your support? Joe?


RedMapleLeaf said...

I want to see your post on Dec 4th after the convention when Volpe finishes in the top 4 and what you say about the deals that were done for the winning candidate. Because YOU don't like Volpe doesn't mean that he doesn't have the numbers to make it very interesting.

This party needs the winner to embrace all the runners-up unlike Chretien and Martin and attitudes like yours are poison.

Peter Loewen said...

Yes, I am not a big fan of Volpe. And he very well may finish in the top 4. But don't expect people to be publicly begging him for support any more than Hellyer was courted in 1976. Volpe is a pariah.

Jim Johnson said...

Peter, glad to see you've yaken the plunge into blogging. It is fun and useful - a rare ccombinaiton (useful, I think as a way of sorting out one's own thoughts even if no one else gives a hoot!).

In any case, this is not germane to your post, just general encouragement. Hopae all is well.


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