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The Liberal leadership race is down to four real contenders, each trying to woo delegates from the other for second-ballot support. But eventually, there will have to be some deal-making.

Personal relationships are likely to play a factor in those deals: Each campaign has players with close ties to counterparts in other camps. They could make of break a deal for a candidate to back a rival -- or encourage a candidate's delegates to split into factions.

The top four contenders each have at least one high-ranking party veteran in their inner circle -- Herb Metcalfe (Stéphane Dion), John Rae (Bob Rae), David Smith (Michael Ignatieff), and David MacNaughton (Gerard Kennedy) -- and most have known one another for years.

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They're not always the campaign managers, but will probably be the chief deal-makers -- while dozens of others work their connections.

STÉPHANE DION

Herb Metcalfe

Although he is not running Mr. Dion's campaign, this former Parliament Hill staffer and Ottawa lobbyist is well-liked and well-known among Liberals who have worked in Ottawa. He has long-standing relationships with Sen. Smith in Mr. Ignatieff's camp, with John Rae and Eddie Goldenberg in Mr. Rae's camp, and Mr. MacNaughton and Mr. Mercer in Gerard Kennedy's campaign. Mr. Metcalfe was a senior adviser for John Manley's aborted 2003 leadership campaign. He and his wife, Isabel Metcalfe always seem to back different Liberal horses: Ms. Metcalfe supported Sheila Copps in 2003 and is supporting Bob Rae this time.

Mark Marissen

Mr. Dion's campaign manager was the B.C. organizer for Paul Martin and a member of the "board" - Mr. Martin's inner circle. At 40, the husband of former B.C. deputy premier Christy Clark has decades of Liberal relationships: he was the party's national youth director in the early 1990s, when Jean Chrétien was leader.

He has long known Sen. Smith and Mr. Richardson in Michael Ignatieff's camp and worked on Mr. Martin's campaigns with John Webster in Mr. Rae's campaign and Bruce Young in Mr. Kennedy's campaign.

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Tim Murphy

Paul Martin's former chief of staff recently signed on to the Dion campaign and a key part of his job is to tend relationships with other camps. A former provincial Liberal MPP in Ontario, he has long known Sen. Smith in Mr. Ignatieff's campaign and David MacNaughton in Mr. Kennedy's campaign, and has worked closely with Paul Martin insiders like John Webster in the Rae campaign. He also worked for Mr. Martin when the latter was finance minister, a job that meant working with Mr. Goldenberg, now in Mr. Rae's camp.

BOB RAE

John Rae

Bob Rae's brother was a towering behind-the-scenes figure in the Liberal Party during Jean Chrétien's years in power. He has been an active Liberal since the 1960s and has relationships across the party. The Power Corp. executive's role as national campaign manager put him in touch with just about every Liberal power-broker in the 1990s, but his relationships are stronger on the Chrétien side of the Chrétien-Martin divide.

His relationship with David Smith dates to the 1960s and he has worked closely over the years with people such as Herb Metcalfe in Mr. Dion's camp and Sen. Terry Mercer in Mr. Kennedy's camp.

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John Webster

Paul Martin's former campaign chair was a key catch for the Rae campaign, because of his strong links to the Turner-Chrétien side of the party and his heavy involvement in Ontario, including the provincial party. He and new Rae supporter Mike Robinson, a close Martin confidante, can help Mr. Rae connect to the Martin wing. Both have links to Mr. Smith and Doug Richardson (Ignatieff), to Mr. Marissen and Mr. Murphy (Dion), and to Mr. MacNaughton and people such as Bruce Young in Mr. Kennedy's campaign.

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF

Senator David Smith

He ran Jean Chrétien's election campaigns in Ontario and is one of the only Chrétien insiders to have been accepted seamlessly into the Martin machine. His Liberal history goes back to the 1960s - he knows everyone, and many people feel they owe him a favour. He was Liberal youth president when Lester B. Pearson in power, worked for Senator Keith Davey, the chief Liberal strategist in the 1960s and '70s, and former finance ministers Walter Gordon and John Turner in the 1960s. He was an MP and minister under Pierre Trudeau.

He knows nearly all the senior players in the other campaigns. His relationships with John Rae and Eddie Goldenberg date to the 1960s. He knew Herb Metcalfe and David MacNaughton when both were Parliament Hill staffers in the early 1980s and worked with most of the Paul Martin organizers on campaigns.

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Doug Richardson

The head of Mr. Ignatieff's "outreach" program was Paul Martin's Saskatchewan organizer, and long before that, John Turner's executive assistant. He also has long-standing relationships with veteran Liberals who worked on Parliament Hill, and more recent ones with Mr. Martin's team. He has worked closely with John Webster on Mr. Rae's team, Mark Marissen and Tim Murphy on Mr. Dion's.

GERARD KENNEDY

David MacNaughton

best known in provincial Liberal circles in Ontario, he was principal secretary to Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, and campaign chair for former premier David Peterson -- now an adviser to Mr. Ignatieff's campaign. But the lobbyist and communications advisor also has older federal ties, having served as a Parliament Hill staffer in teh 1970s, a leadership-campaign strategist to former Liberal minister Don Johnston in the early 1980s, and on John Turner's 1988 election campaign. Toronto has been the centre of Liberal politics for more than a decade, and he has long known many key Liberals on other campaigns, including John Webster (Rae), Sen. Smith (Ignatieff), Tim Murphy (Dion), and his Ottawa ties include Doug Richardson (Ignatieff) and Herb Metcalfe (Dion.)

Senator Terry Mercer

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Sen. Mercer was national director of the Liberal Party in the last years of Mr. Chrétien's tenure . That gives him strong relationships on the Chrétien side of the party, but made him some enemies on the Martin side. He worked closely with John Rae and Eddie Goldenberg (Rae camp) on election campaigns, as well as Sen. Smith in the Ignatieff campaign, and Herb Metcalfe in the Dion camp.

Bruce Young

Although his role is organizing British Columbia for Mr. Kennedy, he was also the B.C. desker in the Paul Martin PMO, and has extensive relationships with the 30- and 40-something Martin crowd -- and there are some in every camp. He has worked with Doug Richardson (Ignatieff) and John Webster (Rae) in the Martin campaigns, but even more closely with Mark Marissen and Tim Murphy (Dion).

The bottom four candidates

The bottom four candidates in the Liberal race don't have enough delegates to put one of the top four contenders within striking distance of victory. But they could by key to starting momentum. "It takes one cow to start a stampede," one Liberal strategist noted.

Martha Hall Findlay: Most expect the eighth-place Toronto lawyer to rely on her own counsel when she decides who she will support among the top four contenders -- all of whom have personally tried to curry her favour over the course of the campaign.

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Joe Volpe: Most who know Mr. Volpe think he will make his own decision. As the former Ontario minister and organizer for Paul Martin, he worked with John Webster, now on Mr. Rae's campaign -- but is not clear if that relationship is still strong. Mr. Volpe also has relationships with people in nearly every campaign. The question is whether his regional organizers will stick with him if he endorses a competitor, or peel off to various other candidates.

Scott Brison: Scott Brison's campaign is packed with MPs and Senators from Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada, who are likely to give him advice. But his inner circle consists of loyalists such as communications adviser Dale Palmeter, an aide since Mr. Brison was a Progressive Conservative. Mr. Brison is likely to be his own deal-maker, but the speculation that he will go to Mr. Ignatieff is tempered by the fact that the front-runner's campaign is the only one already full of prominent Nova Scotians.

Ken Dryden: Ken Dryden has a loyal team of advisors headed by Mark Watton, a well-liked former staffer in Paul Martin's PMO. That gives him ties to just about every campaign in the race, especially people like Mark Marissen and Tim Murphy on Mr. Dion's campaign. One key Dryden adviser, Toronto lawyer Jack Siegal, is married to Kerry Kurczak-Siegal, a former executive assistant to Gerard Kennedy. Just whom Mr. Dryden might support is anybody's guess, and his delegates are a hodge-podge with different leanings in pockets throughout the country.

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