03/27/2013 08:23 EDT | Updated 03/27/2013 08:26 EDT

Liberal Leadership Race: Fight For Second Place May Be Only Suspense Left


When Liberals gather to hear the results of their leadership race on April 14, most of the suspense will be about who will finish second.

While the runner-up position may not seem very important in a race that Justin Trudeau is expected to easily win, it will mean a lot to the three individuals who have the best chance of finishing second.

Based on the financial data compiled by Elections Canada, those three contenders are Martha Hall Findlay, Joyce Murray, and, to a lesser extent, Martin Cauchon.

Hall Findlay has raised the most money after Trudeau at $179,000. That is by no means a paltry sum, but Trudeau’s campaign has raised more than $1 million, with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donations still to be processed. Altogether, he has been responsible for more than two-thirds of all the money raised in the race so far.

Murray is not far behind Hall Findlay, having raised $169,000. Of the remaining contestants in the race, Cauchon is the only other to top six figures with $103,000 raised.

Money can be a good predictor of final outcomes in a leadership race, and that gives Hall Findlay a narrow advantage over her two main rivals.

Or does it?

Considering that Hall Findlay had raised most of her funds in 2012, her momentum has stalled. Murray, by contrast, has raised the majority of her donations over the last few months. Cauchon has also done all of his fundraising in 2013, as he only entered the race in January.

That would seem to give Murray the best shot at finishing second, and the number of contributors to her campaign backs that up. Her campaign has managed to raise money from 1,382 contributors. That puts her ahead of Hall Findlay, who has received donations from 1,023.

It is here that Cauchon’s bid for runner-up status falters, as he has received money from only 151 contributors (fewer than David Bertschi, who recently dropped out). It means Cauchon’s contributors have dug deeper, but he has not been able to convince as many people to donate to his campaign as Murray or Hall Findlay. That may matter more.

As each riding will be equally weighted, the outcome of the vote is difficult to predict. Murray might have raised more money in 2013 and has more contributors, but her B.C. base has only 36 ridings, compared to the 75 in Quebec (Cauchon) and the 106 in Ontario (Hall Findlay).

However, as Joyce Murray is the only candidate running on a co-operation ticket, she should be able to pull support throughout the country. Being the only contestant arguing for an electoral pact with the NDP and Greens both boosts and limits her drawing power. It gathers all of the supporters of co-operation into her tent, but excludes those who do not see a future for the Liberals if they join up with the other opposition parties.

It also limits the potential personal gains that Murray could get by finishing second. Though she has impressed many Liberals with her performance in the campaign so far, her position may make it difficult to land an important role in the party’s future. Finishing second could mean more to Hall Findlay or Cauchon, who might use it as a springboard towards a political comeback. Unlike Murray, neither Hall Findlay nor Cauchon currently sit in the House of Commons. In the end, a future return to parliament would not be a bad consolation prize.

Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.

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