Less than six months ago, Kevin Rudd proudly bore the moniker of “Mr 70%” — an almost unparalleled approval rating and an apparent Teflon coating, as his government went from strength to strength in the polls and the press.

Half a year, a few rate rises and one failed emissions trading scheme later, the nicknames most commonly being applied to his far-less-shiny forehead are “coward” and “wimp“.

Now with the release of yesterday’s disastrous Newspoll results, which saw his preferred PM rating sink to 50%, pundits and punters are wondering whether the man who was once lauded as Australia’s most popular PM will even see through a second term in government — if he wins one at all.

Today’s West Australian claims ALP MPs are now sharpening the knives behind his back:

“We have a spineless PM whose timidity is only matched by people around him,” one Labor MP said.

Another said: “He will get the next crack (at the election) but that’s it and then there will be a new leader.”

And the Herald Sun is predicting his more popular deputy Julia Gillard could take over within three years:

Ms Gillard’s been getting plenty of practice.New figures from the PM’s Department reveal she has been Acting Prime Minister for 185 days or 21 per cent of the time the Government has been in power.

With an election now looming, is this the beginning of the end for KRudd? Here’s what the nation is saying this morning:

The Australian

Editorial: A Prime Minister in search of an agenda

Labor’s main claim to fame – that it has not been a bad government – is no way to win a second term.

Dennis Shanahan: Rudd was expecting a day of reckoning

Rudd’s popularity has crashed: he’s lost his personal appeal and credibility, and his government is suffering from broken promises, botched programs and policy reversals.

Peter van Onselen: Spectacular fall puts PM on edge of the abyss

… if Rudd remains a drag on the Labor vote, given that he has few friends in the parliamentary party, his time in office will be dramatically shortened whether he wins the next election or not.

Sydney Morning Herald

Lenore Taylor: It will be all right on the night: Labor at pains to find brave face

… the government could be in real trouble.

Phillip Coorey: Another rate rise, another blow for PM

Kevin Rudd is facing his darkest hour in politics

The Age

Shaun Carney: True believers lose faith in a man without a mission

… the government’s existence – its mission statement, if you like – is thin.

Michelle Grattan: Figures prove hard for PM to swallow

The government is suffering the consequences of its recent plethora of broken promises … u-turns and administrative blunders.

Herald Sun

Andrew Bolt: Rudd ruining Labour’s brand

Back when Rudd and I would still catch up for dinner or coffee, I knew him already as a deeply insecure man who seemed to want nothing from politics but validation. Applause. Power.

Elsewhere…

The Piping Shrike: No revival, just decay – Federal edition

Rudd’s problem is not that he doesn’t believe in anything, but that neither he, nor his government, represents any section of society that would tell him what to believe.

Peter Fray

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