Ahead and behind

CTV: Liberal support lowest since Dion became leader.

La Presse (the large-sample monthly CROP poll, in which this corner has taken a particular interest:) Liberals and NDP tied in Quebec — at 16%.

In 2006 Paul Martin scored the lowest popular vote in Liberal history in Quebec, at 20%. When Stéphane Dion became leader nearly a year later, I was certain he would do better in his native province than Martin had. By May 2007 I was less certain about this certainty than about some others, and I wrote a column which concluded that Dion’s faltering leadership would recover at home “or not at all.”

Then another year went by. Not much luck. Now it was supposed to be an audacious pro-environmental policy and a summer barbecue tour. Niente. Came the writ drop, and the campaign was supposed to help — level playing field, matching budget caps for all parties, blanket coverage for all leaders, finally a chance for Dion to shine. He has shown intermittent flashes of spark and some genuine grace under pressure, but the effect has been modest and given where he started, he needed the effect to be better than modest.

Tonight the debates begin, and while some of my colleagues have shown a lot of affection for the Dion-has-to-score-in-English, Harper-in-French model, really Dion is in such dire straits he must be formidable in both languages.

But what am I saying. The preceding paragraph is simply more of the OK-now-it’s-time-to-really-get-serious that people have been saying about Dion since he became leader.

He now has a little less than two years behind him, and two weeks ahead until the election. Which looks larger: the potential in those two weeks, or the unexploited potential in the two years that came before?

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