Chantal Hebert writes that the Conservative leadership race is Pierre Poilievre's to lose -- and there's plenty of time for him to do it:
If the Conservative leadership vote took place tomorrow, front-runner Pierre Poilievre would probably be able to turn his lead into a quasi or definitive first-ballot victory.
But with the vote set for Sept. 10, the Ottawa MP is instead about to spend what could turn out to be the longest three months of his already lengthy political tenure.
90 days is an eternity in politics, and recent Conservative campaigns have demonstrated it is one thing to round up members and another to ensure they vote.
In the 2020 leadership vote, almost 100,000 of those who had signed up to cast a ballot failed to do so. That works out to about 40 per cent of the membership.
To stay out of his rivals’ striking distance, Poilievre will have to spend the summer trying to keep his followers engaged.
Whether he can do that is an open question:
A fair number of his recruits are new to party politics. Many were attracted to his campaign by his overtures to the so-called “Freedom Convoy” and to the people who occupied the national capital earlier this year.
It is in no small part to cement their allegiance that Poilievre recently promised legislation to prevent a future federal government from implementing vaccination mandates.
That commitment went down like a lead balloon among the majority of Canadians — including scores of Conservatives — who supported vaccination mandates over the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And Poilievre keeps spouting nonsense:
Every time he doubles down on his more outlandish pronouncements, be it on vaccines or bitcoin or the Bank of Canada, Poilievre risks doing so at cost to his credibility as a leadership contender and, to a lesser degree, as a potential party leader. It is not every one of his followers who signed up for a spell of disruptive leadership.
If only to avoid having to spend the summer replaying his most polarizing hits, Poilievre must hope either Jean Charest or Patrick Brown decides to bail out of the race before the vote.
And, Hebert warns, "a Charest defeat at the hands of an attack dog on Sept. 10 is more likely to hurt the Conservative brand than to diminish the former premier."
Image: The Toronto Star