If yesterday served as any indication, Stephen Harper isn't going anywhere. I confess I've had my doubts he'd make it to the next election. But, as Chantal Hebert writes, it's getting harder and harder for him to exit gracefully:
As of now the odds of an orderly pre-election transition to a different Conservative leader will lengthen dramatically with every passing week.
In theory Harper could still decide to call it quits before the next campaign. Some of his predecessors left much later in the pre-writ period.
In his day Brian Mulroney did not grace successor Kim Campbell with more than a few months to make her mark before she had to face voters. Mulroney’s mandate was in its fifth year when he resigned.
Pierre Trudeau also allowed the fourth anniversary of his return to power to pass — albeit by only a few days — before he took his now famous walk in the snow in 1984.
Yesterday, in his speech to the converted, Harper focused on his record -- insisting that the country is better off because he's been prime minister:
Harper’s single-minded focus on the government’s record — including a lengthy but essentially par-for-the-course segment on foreign affairs — suggests that there has been a belated shift in the thinking of Conservative strategists.
Having spent months on attack mode only to enter a pre-election year behind the Liberal party, it seems they have come to the conclusion that they need to reintroduce Harper to voters more than they need to continue to try to pre-emptively destroy Trudeau’s public persona.
Obviously, he hasn't been reading sources of contrarian opinion or the polls:
In a recent Abacus poll Harper scored more poorly than his main rivals in virtually every leadership category, with his poorest marks earned for attitude.
As he told the last Conservative convention in Calgary -- the one that shut out the media -- he could "care less" what his opponents think. When the election comes, it will be interesting to see how much his "care less" policy is worth.