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The writer and rookie: Michael Ignatieff

Age: 58

An elected politician for only three months, he is considered a front-runner. The Harvard human-rights professor is a globally known public affairs commentator, but in politics has been forced to explain some of his academic positions, such as support for the invasion of Iraq. His campaign has attracted buzz and support from many in the Liberal establishment.

Key issues: Education and technology; federal government's role in ensuring equality of opportunity and services.

Campaign quarterback: Ian Davey, former John Manley campaign adviser and son of legendary "Rainmaker" strategist Keith Davey.

Key supporters: The three Peterson brothers -- former Ontario premier David, former federal cabinet minister Jim and Ontario MPP Tim; Ontario Senator David Smith; long-time Liberal lawyer John Campion; former Trudeau cabinet minister Marc Lalonde; MPs Pablo Rodriguez, Rodger Cuzner, John McKay and Paul Szabo. Former Molson Inc. president James Arnett will be fundraising chair.

Positive: He has a high profile, as well as a background as a public-policy thinker and speaker.

Negative: Spent much of the past three decades outside of Canada. Short on experience in politics or running an organization.

The premier: Bob Rae

Age: 57

The former NDP premier is trying a comeback as a Liberal. He entered the crowded pond as a big fish, has major backers from Jean Chrétien's camp and Queen's Park, but is dogged by his much-criticized record as Ontario premier. He will tackle that with a campaign theme of "prosperity with a purpose."

Key issues: The economy, education and training.

Campaign quarterback: His brother John Rae, a Power Corp. executive and former campaign manager for Jean Chrétien.

Key supporters: Mr. Chrétien's long-time policy adviser Eddie Goldenberg; Chrétien organizers Randy Pettipas and Raj Chahal; and John Webster, an Ontario strategist and campaign co-chair for Paul Martin; Montreal PR executive and long-time Liberal Jonathan Goldbloom is acting as campaign manager. Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman and MPP Greg Sorbara are backers with political machines. Mr. Rae's brother, John, has both shrewd strategic skills and fundraising muscle, and is seen as the ambassador in Liberal politics of Montreal's powerful Desmarais family. No current Liberal MPs have declared support for Mr. Rae.

Positive: He is a deft campaigner, and can appeal to NDP voters.

Negative: Remembered in Ontario for "Rae days" and deficits. Just joined the Liberal Party.

The young progressive: Gerard Kennedy

Age: 45

He gave up his post as Ontario's education minister to run for the leadership, and has captured early momentum as someone who could represent generational change for the Liberals. He has firm credentials as a stalwart of the party's "progressive" wing, so he will run as a centrist emphasizing "enterprise" and small business, education and innovation.

Key issues: Education, enterprise in business and government, immigration.

Campaign quarterback: David MacNaughton, former senior adviser to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Key supporters: N.S. Senator Terry Mercer, a former national director of the Liberal Party; former Martin organizers Bruce Young in B.C. and David Brodie in Alberta; and a half-dozen relatively young MPs, including Navdeep Bains, Mark Holland, Scott Simms, Omar Alghabra, and Borys Wrzesnewskyj.

Positive: Relatively youthful and a fresh face for most. A long-time Liberal with no links to scandals or federal Liberal divisions.

Negative: No federal experience, and little profile outside of Ontario.

Monsieur Vert: Stéphane Dion

Age: 50

The only Quebec candidate, the former federal environment minister is running on an environmental platform of making sustainable development central to Liberal Party politics.

Key issues: The environment.

Campaign quarterback: Mark Marissen, formerly Paul Martin's chief B.C. organizer.

Key supporters: Campaign chair and former minister Don Boudria; Herb Metcalfe, John Manley's former campaign chair and a proven fundraiser; MPs Marlene Jennings and Bryon Wilfert; well-known former MP Warren Allmand; Bill Cunningham, former president of the party's B.C. wing.

Positive: He is cerebral, and liked by many Liberals for being federalism's point man in Quebec.

Negative: Has a lecturer's style, and many Quebeckers associate him with tough federalism that turns off soft nationalists.

The mystery man: Ken Dryden

Age: 58

He is a household name with the Montreal Canadiens, but still an unknown quantity as a politician. Despite being Paul Martin's child-care minister, he has yet to convert his high-profile sports status into political affection. Opinions differ on whether his campaign will snowball or fall flat. He will launch his campaign tomorrowFriday.

Key issues: Child care; federal government's role in national social programs.

Campaign quarterback: Mark Watton, formerly Mr. Dryden's chief of staff and PMO staffer under Mr. Martin.

Key supporters: Toronto lawyer Jack Siegel, a long-time party activist; former Manitoba MP and organizer David Walker; senators Sharon CarstairsÖ of Manitoba and Art Eggleton of Ontario, and Manitoba MP Anita Neville.

Positive: He is a hockey superstar; appeals to social-policy progressives.

Negative: He speaks ponderously and his political instincts are unproven.

The former Tory: Scott Brison

Age: 38

He ran fourth behind Peter MacKay for the Progressive Conservative leadership in 2003, but the gay Nova Scotia MP said his party left him when it merged with the Canadian Alliance, and he crossed the floor to the Liberals. He's conservative on economic issues, liberal on social issues, and is working the party's youth wing.

Key issues: Competitive taxes, education, the environment.

Campaign quarterback: Leslie Swartman, formerly Jean Lapierre's chief of staff and a Paul Martin organizer.

Key supporters: Montreal businessman Michael Penner will be fundraising chair, and supporters include such corporate executives as John Risley, chairman of Clearwater Seafoods; Vincenzo Guzzo, vice-president of Guzzo Cinemas; and Gail Asper, corporate secretary of CanWest Global Communications Corp. Senator Jim Cowan, Paul Martin's Nova Scotia campaign chair, Liberal youth president Richard Diamond and MPs Mark Eyking and Mike Savage are supporters, and Martin organizers John Bethel, Earl Provost and Jonathan Schneiderman are on the team.

Positive: Has a youthful appeal, especially to the centre-right; only candidate not from Toronto or Montreal.

Negative: Middling French; his e-mail to an investment banker predicting positive news about income trusts raises questions about his judgment.

The party veteran: Joe Volpe

Age: 58

The former immigration minister and human resources minister will draw on that experience to build a platform. His deep party roots and organizing experience, including ties to ethnic communities that he expanded as immigration minister, give him an extensive network that could prove surprisingly strong. The question is whether he can win hearts outside of that network.

Key issues: Education and training; immigration.

Campaign quarterback: Jim Karygiannis, MP for Scarborough-Agincourt, a Toronto leadership organizer for both Mr. Chrétien and Mr. Martin.

Key supporters: A half-dozen MPs, including Wajid Khan, Sukh Dhaliwal, Massimo Pacetti, Lui Temelkovski and Joe Comuzzi. Former MP Nick Discepola will be a key organizer in Quebec, and former agriculture minister Bob Speller is also onside in Ontario.

Positive: He has deep party roots; is close to immigrant and ethnic communities.

Negative: Viewed more as a kingmaker than a king, more organizer than leader.

The democratic reformer: Carolyn Bennett

Age: 55

The veteran MP and former public health minister lacks a big campaign machine, but is running on a take-back-the-party plank to give the grassroots more power than organizers, as well as democratic reform for Parliament and the voting system. Although she's not labelling herself as the women's candidate, being the best-known woman in the race could help her build a constituency.

Key issues: Reforming the Liberal Party and Parliament; health and wellness.

Campaign quarterback: Jim Anderson, former senior adviser to Pierre Pettigrew.

Key supporters: Ontario Attorney-General Michael Bryant, Former Ontario Liberal leader Lyn McLeod, and Ontario Children's Minister Mary Anne Chambers are supporters. Beth Webster, an organizer whose husband, John, is a key catch for Bob Rae, will be on her Ontario team. Sherritt International Corp. executive chairman Ian Delaney will be active, probably as a fundraiser. Former Trudeau cabinet minister Judy Erola and former senators Sheila Finestone and Landon Pearson are supporters.

Positive: She is the most prominent female candidate; call for grassroots reform strikes a chord with some party members.

Negative: Her French is weak; party reform plank may be too inward-looking for a prospective prime minister.

The prosperity candidate: Maurizio Bevilacqua

Age: 45

His campaign launched with an immigrant-to-MP success story, but his chief appeal is on economic issues, where he warns Canada needs to increase productivity to compete with rising economic powers so it can pay for its social programs.

Key issues: Economy, taxes, productivity.

Campaign quarterback: Taras Zalusky, former chief of staff to several cabinet ministers.

Key supporters: MPs Gerry Byrne of Newfoundland and Roy Cullen of Toronto; former federal minister Roy MacLaren; former party pollster Michael Marzolini; Sheila Copps organizer Jeff Smith; and Chrétien Alberta organizer Jeff Angel. National Bank FinancialÖ vice-chair Cam di Prata will be fundraising chair.

Positive: Appeal to so-called "business Liberals" and years of quietly cultivating grassroots support.

Negative: Lack of a national profile; productivity plank might not inspire Liberal left.

The neophyte: Martha Hall Findlay

Age: 46

She lost the Ontario riding of Newmarket-Aurora to Belinda Stronach in 2004 and stepped aside when Ms. Stronach crossed the floor to the Liberals, but is now seeking the leadership. Her assiduous long-shot campaign has earned her some respect. She plans to campaign by travelling the country in a recreational vehicle.

Key issues: Fiscal restraint, environment, foreign policy.

Campaign quarterback: Quito Maggi, former staffer with the Liberal Party's Ontario wing.

Key supporters: Tom Hayes, who ran former N.S. Liberal leader Danny Graham's campaign, and a handful of Liberal-riding presidents such as York-Simcoe's Raj Sandhu.

Positive: Appeal to underdog-lovers looking for a smart, non-establishment candidate.

Negative: Has never been elected, lacks a national or even an internal Liberal Party profile.