There is no question that Stephane Dion is an impressive candidate for the Liberal leadership. Dion seems to understand that the environment is the primary issue we need to focus on moving forward. Dion is smart, articulate and generally impressive in conveying his ideas in a clear and forceful way. I can fully understand why Dion enjoys broad support amongst Liberals and I don't mean to disparage those that back him. However, in my mind, a Dion lead Liberal Party is a recipe for years in opposition.
The overarching theme that you hear from all quarters- the Liberal Party must renew itself, develop a fresh approach and present a clean slate. Of all the top-tier candidates, it has hard to argue that anyone has more baggage than Dion, with the exception of Bob Rae. There is no mystery to Dion, his legacy is well-known and presents a massive hurdle to overcome. I saw a Quebec poll recently that showed Dion leading among the Liberal candidates, which is hardly surprising. The stay the course Liberal crowd has a champion in Dion, not to mention his historic high-profile in the province. However, I also read another poll recently that showed Dion had the least potential for growth, outside of the Liberal base. Given the fact that this base has eroded to the point of near irrelevance, Dion's support within it should be viewed for what it is, marginal. The problem for Dion, the vast majority of Quebecers have a solid opinion of the man, and most of it is not flattering. Jean Chretien's hatchet man and the defender of the status quo is hardly an attractive image to project. I don't see any realistic scenario where Dion re-invents himself to shed the albatross. Dion has a ceiling in Quebec, and it disallows any substantive revival for the Liberals in the province.
Dion must be viewed within the context of Harper's overtures to Quebec. I predict Harper, and Duceppe for that matter, would relish the opportunity to compare and contrast Dion's historical opinion against the goodies outlined in "renewed federalism". The man from the past, with the centralist credentials, against the man who wishes to give Quebec the farm- you do the math. If Dion can't win in Quebec, then what is the advantage of a francophone as leader? Will Dion have widespread appeal in the West, or will his leadership be viewed as another Quebecer from the tired Liberal Party?
On substance, I love Dion, but that isn't the only consideration, especially with such an able slate of candidates. Dion contradicts the notion of a new direction because he is so firmly entrenched in the old powerbase, that fought the old battles. Why choose a leader with two strikes against him from the outset? If it's all about message, what message does Dion send?
As an aside, I respect people's decision to support Dion, he is an impressive candidate. I welcome any rebuttals to show why I am wrong about Dion.