John Howard did not need this morning’s Newspoll to tell him that acting as a Prime Minister doing Prime Ministerial things was his only hope of still being in the job at the end of the year.
The first sign of a change in campaign tactics came months ago when he temporarily put aside attacking Kevin Rudd’s supposed character and policy weaknesses to announce a grand plan to fix the problems of the Murray Darling basin. This was a leader prepared to tackle one of those tasks that had proved too hard for his predecessors over the last century.
That grand plan to smash through the barriers of federalism might not yet have come to fruition but the pollsters reported that the effort was thought well of by the voters. Mr Howard was showing that after 11 years in office he had not run out of ideas.
Encouraged by polls showing that while his government might be running a distant second to Labor his own personal standing was holding up well, Mr Howard embarked on another crusade to smash through where all other PMs had failed. He chose to tackle the problems of Aboriginal squalor and degradation in a most dramatic “can do” fashion.
His promise to end the abuse of Aboriginal children may or may not ultimately result in change but it surely makes Mr Howard look like an activist and caring Prime Minister. And in this morning’s Newspoll there was the first public signal of what the Coalition campaign team had picked up in their private sampling.
Australians are no longer certain that Kevin Rudd would make a better Prime Minister than John Howard with Newspoll putting at only one percentage point the gap that was 12 points back in April.
Being Prime Ministerial appears to be working so it is no surprise that Mr Howard is looking for other areas where he can play the leadership role and what could be better than being firm and resolute on protecting the nation from would be aggressors?
Hence the renewed warnings yesterday of the dangers of militant Muslims in Indonesia which provided a clever way of reinforcing the current activities of the security services and the Federal Police at home without being accused of blatantly prejudicing any future trial.
Stand by for further instalments of Prime Ministerial concern about national security.
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