At the outset of the campaign, he was dismissed as an also-ran. He was unpopular in his native province, he had no charisma, he had a nerdish attitude, and he didn't look or sound like a leader. Yet, Mr. Dion is actually running a surprisingly good campaign...
The French-speaking press was even more complimentary. La Presse columnist Vincent Marissal, who attended both debates, wrote that "Dion has found his political persona. He is funny, relaxed, combative without being arrogant. He's by far the most credible and the most convincing. He knows about the issues better than the other contenders, he's the most solid intellectually, and the only one who's really able to engage in a debate, whereas the others look like tourists visiting the country."
Michel C. Auger, the political columnist for Le Soleil, concurred: "Only Dion, Ignatieff and Rae have the qualities needed to become prime minister of a country that's a member of the G8."
Mr. Dion's "rehabilitation" actually started before the leadership race. The turning point came when he was appointed federal environment minister -- a responsibility he took, of course, very seriously, and that changed his image in Quebec, which has recently converted en masse to the new religion of the environment. His name became synonymous with the magic word, Kyoto. The coverage he received as president of the UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal was hugely positive.
Admittedly, I have no intimate knowledge of Quebecer's feelings on Dion, but the fact that this article is written by a francophone seems relevant. If, as this article argues, Dion is successfully re-inventing himself, then he emerges as a real force for the Liberal Party. Beating back the Tory incursions into Quebec is critical if the Liberals are to re-gain power. If Quebecer's are willing to give Dion a fresh look, distanced from the Chretien angle, then he becomes increasingly attractive. The last thing the Liberal Party needs is a leader that starts with two strikes already against- that notion seems completely nonsensical, unless prolonged opposition is the goal. I think I will wait for some more information before I conclude that Dion can shed his past, but at the very least articles like the above are encouraging signs that re-invention is possible.