Majority of Australians : "Not You, Mate"
John Howard used the mantra "Why Do You Trust?" so effectively in the 2004 federal election that US President George W. Bush borrowed the line, a few weeks later, for his own election campaign.
But the majority of Australians no longer trust John Howard, as recent polls clearly show.
And perhaps even worse, particularly for a politician who has expanded so much energy and time portraying himself as a "I'm just like all youse" non-elitist, salt-of-the-earth, true-bloody-blue Aussie, the vast majority of Australians now view the prime minister as an arrogant man.
John Howard is now being downgraded - monumentally, comprehensively - in the polls on key issues that were formerly his greatest political strengths : economic management, national security, trust and likability.
The Coalition government of John Howard is being shredded more than six months out from the federal election every time voters are given the chance to have their say in polling.
The Newspoll yesterday that showed the Labor Party 'alternative' government, led by Kevin Rudd, was leading Howard & Co. by 61% to 39% was shocking enough to reportedly cause scenes of near mayhem in the Coalition party room in Canberra yesterday. Clearly, government ministers and MPs are rightly terrified of losing their jobs, perks and power.
But the numbers in the new polls released today show are far more personal for John Howard, getting at the heart of all that he holds dear : how the Australian public views him as a man, as a leader, as a human being.
The numbers are so bad, you almost feel sorry for the guy.
John Howard will now have to stage the biggest comeback in Australian political history to win the next election, and few of his once loyal media lapdogs, and attack dogs, believe he can do it.
68per cent of voters have branded Mr Howard as arrogant. Just 29 per cent, by contrast, label Mr Rudd with the same description.While the Government has attacked Mr Rudd's integrity and character, 67per cent of voters believe him trustworthy, up 10 percentage points since December.
Mr Howard, by contrast, has gone into negative territory for the first time, with just 49 per cent of voters believing he can be trusted.
Kevin Rudd now has breathing space with the Australian public to make a few mistakes, take a few blows, and screw up in front of the television cameras. As long as he isn't busted robbing blind old-age pensioners in the stairwell of a nursing home, it is extremely unlikely that Rudd will dip below a 50% approval rating in the coming months.
The swamp-dwelling muck hunters of the Liberal Party have already combed over every aspect of Rudd's life and political career and they've got next to nothing to attack him with. But even if they did have the goods on Rudd, the Australian public has let it be known via a bullhorn siren that they don't want to see the coming federal election slide back down into the mud and filth slinging of the past few weeks, which was primarily the work of Liberal Party frontbenchers like Peter Costello and the loathsome Tony Abbott.
The Labor Party spin machine, meanwhile, don't have to go dirt-digging on Howard, and they don't have to chuck the mud his way. All they have to do is lightly refresh Australians memories of just a few of the foul and disgusting lies, fabrications and distortions that Howard & Co. have pummelled Australians with during each and every year of their 11 year long reign.
Howard, meanwhile, not only has to make the majority of Australians trust him again, when most already consider him untrustworthy and a liar to boot, but he has to spin his personal image so that they stop believing he is arrogant.
But Howard is an arrogant man. Few would dispute that.
But Australians are sick of him being arrogant. So he has to change.
The severe problem with that is when Howard tries to look all coy and humble, he merely looks pathetic and sad instead. Which is worse than him coming off as arrogant.
Restore the trust, then up it. Downshift the arrogance.
It's an incredibly tall order, and there are less people today in the media and in the halls of Parliament who will confidentially tell you that Howard can pull it off.
On the back of yesterday's stunning poll numbers, Kevin Rudd was asked how he felt about the Labor Party's unprecedented lead. Rudd could hardly hide his delight, and he said the following, through a broad, bright smile :
"You know what, I still see this huge mountain with a lot of snow on top and I see a very clever politician already up there and his name is Mr Howard..."The snow up there, however, is thawing, and Howard is discovering its awfully slippery on top of that mountain.
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