With those qualifiers in mind, I'd like to digest some very encouraging polling for the Liberals, more specifically Bob Rae. A Forum Research poll out today shows the Liberals up modestly to a semi-respectable 25% in the polls, pretty much within the MOE of the NDP at 28%. The Conservatives sit at 35%, slight erosion, but still within their normal fluctuation range. The pollster credits the little Liberal uptick to Rae's performance, which seems entirely plausible, given his high profile and steady leadership.
Perhaps more instructive, the Frank Graves series for iPolitics which looks at approvals for various leaders and finds some remarkable results for Bob Rae. Graves finds:
Rae shows surprising strength for a caretaker presiding over a party with one foot in the grave, at least according to Peter Newman. With 44-per-cent approval, he eclipses the prime minister’s rating and with only 25 per cent disapproval.
A Liberal leader, interim or otherwise, with a high approval, eclipsing the Prime Minister, it's been YEARS since we've seen this dynamic, and even then it was fleeting at best. More remarkable, look at these Rae numbers for Ontario:
Given all our assumptions about baggage in Ontario, that Rae scores so high, his disapproval's so low, really does surprise. Stephen Harper has a full 35% higher disapproval than Bob Rae in Ontario. Nobody can claim Rae is an "unknown", so these numbers are all the more remarkable.
Bob Rae is on a roll, and within that the Liberals are clearly still on the Canadian political radar. Also true, it will become harder and harder to separate the fortunes of the Liberals and Rae, a great job in one capacity will support arguments for the permanent role, the two are now intertwined. I believe Liberals must tread carefully with the overlapping stories and just enjoy the encouraging signs.