Liberals are also looking at the real possibility that Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) will "in all likelihood," win at least a minority or a majority in the next election which is affecting the whole dynamic of a Liberal leadership run.
"If he's got a majority the next time, you're up seven or eight years and nobody coming in this time is going to survive that long, especially older ones," said one Liberal, which explains why the party's heavy-hitters did drop out. "If Stronach and Brison don't do something, they're just going to fade from peoples' memories. They don't have long careers behind them to draw on, so they have to make their mark now or they'll just be distant memories by the time anything happens."
The fact that several high profile Liberals have taken a pass on the leadership race is more than just coincidence. It would appear many Liberals have calculated that their time in the political wilderness may be a protracted affair:
"How often do you have a leadership for a national party and three of the four leadership contenders are refugees from another party and one's an emigrant who's come back home 30 years later," said one Liberal, referring to Mr. Brison, Ms. Stronach and Mr. Rae and Mr. Ignatieff, respectively.
The Liberals admissions, coupled with the Conservatives aggressive agenda to expand their base should give the center-left pause. In the near term, the Conservatives can put forward legislation that has public appeal, in an effort to set up their prospects for the next election. The more contentious issues, that frighten progressives, will be put on the back burner until a time when Conservatives have free reign.
It is hard to envision a scenario where the Liberals can effectively blunt the Conservative incursions into Quebec and provide a forceful alternative. How do you counter "renewed" federalism, in a province bent on greater autonomy? Unless the Conservatives self-destruct, the Liberals may flounder for years to come. And, don't expect the NDP to stop nipping away at the progressive wing of the Liberal Party. Of course things could change, but given the Conservatives clear, and increasingly effective, plans to solidify support, the Liberal prospects look bleak.
The fact that some Liberal insiders have already calculated that the Conservatives will win another term serves as a sobering revelation. The next Liberal leader may be viewed as a short-term bridge to party renewal. Quite a predicament for a Party that only months ago looked like Canada's perpetual rulers.