It is true that the party's prognosis is grim, whoever takes charge. Sir Reg Empey has to take responsibility for UCUNF's failure, but at least he made a serious attempt to carve out a new role for the UUP in unionist politics. Neither candidate, so far, has articulated anywhere near so radical a plan for the party's future.
If, however, the leader is to be either Basil McCrea or Tom Elliott, only McCrea can offer anything which comes close to a prospectus for change. Elliott has styled himself as the consensus candidate, but he cannot hide the fact that he represents the more traditional wing of the party and its values.
Of course there is no guarantee that McCrea can appeal to new voters and expand unionism's appeal beyond its historical base either but at least he intends to try. Elliott can only hope to shore up the party's existing supporters and target an improvement in its former heartlands.
The UUP has to grasp, once and for all, how serious its position is. This leadership election represents a gamble - whether to 'stick or twist'. Elliott might be able to manage the party's decline, deliver 14-15 MLAs and a decent representation in local councils. The Ulster Unionists can be a junior, politer partner of the DUP in the future under Elliott.
McCrea can, if he shows determination, deliver a party with a modern sensibility and a genuinely moderate unionist ethos. He won't guarantee an immediate revival at the polling booth, but he does offer a different style of unionism.
The question is, has the UUP reached rock bottom, or does it need to fall even further?