Cherniak has an overview of the main players for the Liberal leadership. The big six are Dion, Dryden, Brison, Stronach, Rae and Ignatieff. A brief look at each, makes it easy to conclude that the Liberals desperately need Gerard Kennedy if they hope to project a new image:
Dion: While Dion is a great intellectual, he is crippled by his close ties to old regimes. Dion has baggage which is not easily shed, in effect a new leader already tarnished. This predicament is hardly an attractive quality for those who understand the need for a fresh start. I suspect Harper would salivate at his chances in Quebec with Dion at the helm. "Renewed federalism" vs "old centrism" is a recipe for disaster.
Dryden:I like Dryden. Dryden shows a real grasp of the "big picture", approaching each issue with vision and coherence. Dryden's ideas challenge Canadians to reach for the best in themselves. However, Dryden is a boreasaurus as an orator, prone to rambly speeches that lack inflection. The message is great, but the messenger can be a turn off. Dryden's ties to the last government aren't a huge burden, but coupled with his age, Dryden may find it hard to present a new path.
Stronach:Is there a more divisive figure in the Liberal Party? As Cherniak said, you either love her or hate her- clearly a polarizing force is the last thing Liberals need. Stronach has grown since she became an MP, but she is still relatively lacking in the substance department. Stronach, rightly or wrongly, represents all that is wrong with federal politics. Star power, whatever that means, can't mask the deficiencies.
Brison:I caught Brison doing the rounds the other day. When he wasn't deflecting the email criticism, Brison again showed that he is a crafted speaker, heavy on philosophy. However, the recent admissions have tarnished Brison, whether Liberals choose to believe it or not. Again, Brison has the stain of the old regime, which puts him in conflict with the fresh approach.
Rae:What a great speaker and statesman. Rae is a true intellectual, who shows a masterful understanding on every issue. However, talk about baggage! NDP canvassers in Ontario still hear voters who refuse to vote NDP because of Rae. Rae was unfairly saddled with a massive recession, but his legacy is written in stone. While I welcome a Rae candidacy, his appeal may be limited and ultimately any success would probably bring more questions than answers. Do Liberals want such a controversial figure at the helm?
Ignatieff:Another intellectual, with a great pedigree. On the surface, hard to argue with someone who draws comparison to Trudeau. Again though, Ignatieff comes with issues that distract from his credentials. The residency angle portrays a sense of opportunism which Ignatieff will not easily shake. Ignatieff's age, the Martin factor also betray any sense of a new direction.
Which brings us to Kennedy. When you see the above landscape, and I am probably overly harsh, you conclude that the Liberal Party are setting themselves up for failure. The common theme I have heard since the election is the Liberals need to re-invent themselves and break away from the shackles of the past. Gerard Kennedy is the wildcard who has unique appeal when considering a new vision. Kennedy is relatively young, articulate, placed outside of the Ottawa hierarchy and has potential appeal over several regions. The stakes are high for the Liberals, this is not a time for half measures and cautious transitions. None of the above candidates can be packaged to convey a freshness the way Kennedy can. The Liberal Party needs Kennedy in this race, if for nothing more than appearance.
I like some of the above candidates, plus a couple more not mentioned. But, if you view this campaign tactically, I don't see a calculus of pluses and minuses that doesn't put Kennedy at the top. Everyone one of these candidates has a downside, what is Kennedy's?