Many people are strongly dismissive of Rae’s chances to win the Liberal leadership race. For arguments sake, accept the premise that Rae can’t win. The question then becomes, what impact will Rae have on this race and the eventual outcome. My answer, Rae might just be the most important person on the convention floor.
Calgary Grit did a detailed projection of the various candidates support heading into the convention. You can quibble with the results, but I think it fair to say that Rae will enter the convention with decent first-ballot support. When the question turns to which candidate others will move too on subsequent ballots, I would assume Michael Ignatieff has an ace up his sleeve. Given Rae’s long time friendship with Ignatieff, it’s hard to see a scenario where Rae doesn’t support him on the convention floor. If we believe that Rae enters the hall with around 15% of the delegates, this move could make Rae the kingmaker.
One the criticisms of Ignatieff is that, despite his apparent front-runner status, he won’t be able to “grow” at the convention. The Rae factor could prove this assumption wrong and provide the momentum to make Ignatieff look inevitable. Rae doesn’t have to deliver all his delegates, because it would be psychologically powerful to watch him walk over to Ignatieff’s perch. In a convention that looks to go beyond a first or second ballot, Rae might be able to give Ignatieff everything he requires- momentum. If Rae concludes he can't win, why wouldn't he support his "lifelong" friend.