It doesn't come as a complete surprise that Bob Rae has decided not to run for the Liberal Party leadership. Every politician has his "best before date" and Rae must have realized that his best years and his best opportunity to lead the Liberal Party back to government have come and gone. How he must regret stepping aside for Ignatieff's coronation!
Rae has performed well as interim leader and garnered much more press for the Liberals than their overall performance in the House has deserved. But even his efforts have not been enough to attract voters back to the party. Simply put, the party needs a major overhaul, not just a competent leader and recent polls have not been kind to the party.
Rae's stepping aside will leave open the opportunity for generational change in the party. This is something they need to do to revitalize their MPs and the rank and file. And while a new generation of MPs now has the chance to step up and seek the leadership, it remains to be seen if any of the challengers will have the political smarts, intelligence, drive, charisma and team-building skills needed to move the party back into contention and possibly back into official opposition status.
While avoiding a divisive fight between the old guard and the younger generation, Rae has also avoided a showdown with Justin Trudeau. I have always felt that despite his denials Trudeau would run and that he was waiting for sufficient pressure to build before announcing he had changed his mind. By stepping aside, Rae has now handed Trudeau an opportunity to jump into this leadership contest.
The NDP will be watching closely to see who the future leadership contenders might be as they will be the ones who could suffer the most if a charismatic or skillful Liberal leader emerges. NDP gains in Quebec could be at risk as well as those in other areas such as Ontario or Atlantic Canada where NDP MPs replaced the Liberals in the last election.
Conservatives will watch with interest as well and they will take the measure of the new Liberal leader. A rise of Liberal Party fortunes offers up new opportunities for split votes that will elect more Conservative MPs. In the meantime Bob Rae will remain as interim leader where he will try to keep some of the spotlight on the Liberal Party while many of their best MPs weigh whether or not they will step down from their critic's positions and challenge for the party leadership.
As the Liberal Party goes through their leadership exercise, Canadians will still have the opportunity to enjoy Rae's performance in the House of Commons where he will remain a formidable presence.