Gee that didn’t take long. Brendan Nelson is already being written off by Crikey. At this rate the poor bloke won’t make it to Christmas.

It hasn’t exactly been a flying start by the good doctor, who has spent more time explaining THAT quote, and whether Malcolm Turnbull gave him a post-victory bollocking, than addressing the political, administrative and ideological fallout from the election. Having a dodgy leadership ballot doesn’t help much either – Peter Costello really is the gift that keeps on giving to the Liberals.

But the premature Nelson deathwatch isn’t motivated by the man’s performance. Let’s be honest – it’s because he isn’t Malcolm Turnbull. There was strong media interest in a Turnbull leadership, and a general sense of disappointment – almost resentment – that he missed out.

This is linked to, but separate from, the desire of a lot of non-Liberals to see the Liberal Party move leftwards. As we’ve seen, there’s more than a few Howardite dead-enders in Liberal ranks determined to prevent that, regardless of the electoral consequences.

Nelson is also the victim of the demands of the modern news cycle. The election is SO old news. The new Government has a substantial agenda to implement. There is a planet to save, and revolutions to carry out. New personalities are wielding power. Meanwhile, what have the Liberals got? Um … the battle over the party presidency.

It’ll be a long journey back to relevance for the Coalition. And we’re already asking “are we there yet?”

But if Nelson can hang in there, he can eventually use the media’s attention deficit disorder to his advantage. The mainstream media crave a narrative (as opposed to us clowns in the blogosphere, who like narratives about narratives). Look at coverage of the US presidential campaigns – it has very little to do with policies or actual electability, and everything to do with who’s rising and falling. Candidates almost randomly go from cruising as frontrunners to flailing back in the pack, while obscurities (although rarely ones with such a peculiar name as “Huckabee”) surge to prominence. This is political coverage in a 24/7 news cycle.

Eventually, the media will get bored with Labor, and it’ll only need one favourable poll for the narrative to turn in favour of the hitherto unfashionable Nelson – he’ll be the comeback kid. It’ll inject confidence into his party and suddenly Nelson will be taken seriously. Throw in some errors by Labor, and 2010 may not be a cakewalk for Rudd.

There’s already a lot of rubbish being written about how the Coalition is only a handful of seats from victory in 2010. This is coming from some of the same people who claimed Howard had won a two-term victory in 2004 (and some of them probably reckoned Keating had done the same in 1993). Barring an attack of the Goughs on Labor’s part, the Liberals can’t win the next election. But they can be patient, stay unified and get the basics right, and ensure they are well-placed for victory in 2013.

But as we know, the chances of that are pretty remote. Given what they’re like in Opposition, it’s more likely they’ll be out of office until the 2020s. In which case, Nelson won’t need to worry. He’ll only be the first of a long line of failed leaders, including Turnbull.