Some senior members of the commentariat burned their typing fingers very badly in 2003 and 2004 when they salivated over then Opposition Leader Mark Latham and his political future. This time around the sentiment is similar but there’s a bit more circumspection among the singed-fingers brigade:

LAURIE OAKES, The Bulletin:

On Latham: “If Latham can maintain his self-discipline, it is possible to imagine a Labor victory — something totally in the realms of fantasy before the leadership change.” December 2003

On Rudd: “Kevin Rudd’s election as leader is Labor’s best chance to take on and defeat John Howard, but it will require party unity and a decisive approach on policy… The new leader will not crack under pressure. He is the kind of workaholic who has the stamina to match Howard’s always-on-the-job approach.” 8 December 2006

PAUL KELLY, The Australian:

On Latham: “The battle for the Latham story has begun — it will be the greatest contest in Australian politics.” December 2003

On Rudd: “I think Kevin Rudd is measured, methodical, and he does have a commitment to policy development … If one looks at his performance over a period of years as shadow foreign minister, one sees that he operates with tenacity.” Insiders, 10 December 2006

ALAN RAMSEY, Sydney Morning Herald:

On Latham: “Mark Latham has re-energised Labor as much as he has revived national political interest. All in two months. What a year, whatever happens. Drink your tea, Prime Minister, and think about Labor’s very own WMD coming to get you.” February 2004

On Rudd: “It’s very early but the anticipation is great. So are expectations, on both sides… Clinton came from nowhere for the Democrats to defeat George Bush Snr, the incumbent Republican president and father of Howard’s little mate. Kevin Rudd would delight in doing the same to the little mate of the father’s son. The bride awaits, and so do voters. 3 February 2007

GEOFFREY BARKER, The Financial Review:

On Latham: “Win or lose, Mark Latham is the future of political Labor. A win will cement his place in Labor history as the man who crashed through to end the long Howard government incumbency. A loss will be judged as an impressive first tilt at high office yet to be attained… Latham will be a towering figure in Australian politics of the 21st century.” October 2004

On Rudd: “Labor leader Kevin Rudd has looked remarkably controlled, even still, in parliament. He puts concise questions to John Howard… Rudd is a cool, if slightly prissy, new leader unburdened by Kim Beazley’s emotionalism.” 10 February 2007 

SHAUN CARNEY, The Age:

On Latham: “Latham’s leadership, built as it is on an intensely personal — some would say idiosyncratic — view of political action, presents a profound challenge to Howard.” January 2004

On Rudd: “Rudd, like Howard, and unlike Mark Latham, is a strategic rather than a tactical operator… Of course, it could turn out that voters will find Rudd’s message less than compelling. But you can be certain that by the time the election comes, no-one will be able to say they did not know of it, which at the very least sets Rudd apart from his predecessor as Labor leader, Kim Beazley.” 27 January 2007

STEVE LEWIS, The Australian:

On Latham: “It’s time… to declare Mark Latham the winner of this election campaign. Barring some extraordinary mishap over the next five days, the Labor leader will finish this marathon a clear points winner over John Howard.” October 2004

On Rudd: “Rudd’s moon is very much in the ascendancy. There is a long way to go in this election year but the Opposition Leader has performed well in the early skirmishes.” 13 Feb 2007

Peter Fray

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