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Are even New Democrats bored by the leadership race?

NDP federal leadership candidate Thomas Mulcair, left, responds to a question during an NDP leadership debate in Halifax Sunday January 29, 2012. To Mulcair's left are fellow candidates Romeo Saganash, Martin Singh, Nathan Cullen, Niki Ashton, Peggy Nash, Brian Topp and Paul Dewar. This was the second of six travelling debates before a new party leader is chosen on March 24 at a party convention in Toronto.


There has been much written already about the snoozer that is the NDP leadership race. Canadians are bored by the race, goes the refrain. No clash, no compelling narrative, nobody's paying attention.

But what if it isn't only the broad Canadian populace who have tuned out the NDP leadership race, but also partisan New Democrats who are unimpressed by what's on offer?

Let me stop right here – I get it; I'm a Liberal so anything I write about the NDP leadership race is partisan spin. I get it. Let me try to make everything from this point on nothing but facts.

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There is only one objective data set publicly available in the leadership race as of today: fundraising numbers.

Everything else is either speculative (did you see candidate X's body language at the debate? Clearly winning!), spin by somebody or tangental to the actual race (read: every endorsement. Some endorsers bring votes and organizations with them but most are worth exactly one vote.)

Leadership races are about math and we have no idea who has the votes. How many new memberships have been sold? Where are existing members breaking? We have no idea. None.

But fundraising is real. It's different from votes but it says something about the race, the level of support and organization. That's different from who's going to win but at least it's objective, not spin.

Here are some facts that we know: In 2011, the NDP had 72,326 individual donors who contributed $25 or more to the party.

As of December 31st, no more than 2,463 people had donated to all of the current NDP leadership candidates combined. I say "no more than" only because it's possible one person donated to multiple leadership candidates. I haven't checked, so let's assume these are 2,463 unique donors to leadership candidates.

2,463 donors out of a pool of 72,326 donors means roughly 3.4 per cent of people who donated to the NDP in 2011 have donated to a leadership candidate. Assuming the leadership candidates haven't attracted a single new donor. Not one. We aren't talking Barack Obama here. 3.4 per cent.

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Said otherwise, at least 96.6 per cent of 2011 NDP donors haven't bothered to give even $25 to a leadership candidate as of the half-way mark of the leadership race.

End of facts.

I have no idea why partisan New Democrats who give money to the party aren't giving money to the candidates. Maybe 97 per cent of them are undecided on who they're supporting (unlikely). Maybe 97 per cent of NDP donors were tapped out for the year and couldn't afford another $25 (possible).

I'm sure New Democrats will have lots of explanations as to why this is really no big deal, but based on the only objective criteria available to date, New Democrats aren't engaged in this race in the most direct, personal way possible.

That makes New Democrats just like the rest of us.

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