We all understand the template, perceived front runner, with an added air of inevitability, is the kiss of death in the early stages of any contest. If a frame develops, that elevates one contender, said candidate is then scrutinized ad nauseum, media gather like vultures waiting for any mis-step, a dynamic develops to create a horse race. The other candidates effectively fly under the radar, and their underdog status endears them to the media, while the front runner gets hammered. A classic example can be found in the last Liberal leadership, wherein Stephane Dion benefited from his lesser status, considered a "dark horse", a "long shot", Dion faced little criticism, in fact the media generally fawned with continual "puff pieces", while the perceived leaders were put under the microscope. No one should dismiss the role the media played in presenting Dion as an attractive option, it was part of story, it had impact.
Here we go again, it seems, Ignatieff the anointed, which creates a somewhat boring landscape, so expect idle minds to search for a tightening, it makes for better copy. I'm with Jeff, as he offers a word of caution:
But the media’s would be foolish to write-off Dominic. I can assure you that he is a very serious contender. He is attracting quality organizers and support across the country, many friends of mine whose judgment, and abilities, I respect.
Dominic will be a force in this campaign; the media would be advised not to, as they did in 2006, get tunnel-vision focusing on the Michael and Bob show.
The early "write off", without careful consideration, sets up potential surprise, sets up a scenario where Ignatieff doesn't quite deliver, based on all the subjective handicapping. Dominic LeBlanc is formidable, this isn't a fringe candidate and you can sense wide appeal. That said, the LeBlanc camp should relish low expectations, because it allows for a sense of momentum as the race unfolds.
If we doubt the importance of early frames, then just watch the way the Ignatieff camp downplays the idea of "front runner", the Rae camp embraces the role of "underdog" and the LeBlanc camp relishes the media designation as "upstart".