Media Mogul Rupert Murdoch has endorsed Labor leader Kevin Rudd, saying he would make a good Australian prime minister.Channel 7 showed a beaming Mr Murdoch striding across the forecourt of his News Ltd HQ with young Kev, also smiling nervously, in tow a few paces behind.
Mr Rudd met for a one-hour private meeting with Mr Murdoch at the News Corporation's New York headquarters but the meeting was extended when the pair decided to have dinner together at a local restaurant.
Channel Seven reported that when asked if Mr Rudd would make a good prime minister, Mr Murdoch replied "Oh, I'm sure."
Murdoch's remarks were very short, and most TV viewers would discount this as just a polite response to an expected question. But Murdoch knows how power works. You don't give Rudd a free dinner, a photo shoot, a nod and a wink for nothing.
The cameras and microphones were nearly all aimed at Murdoch, of course. These press boys know how things work.
Mr Murdoch has previously given his public support of world leaders who went on to win their elections, including Britain's Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair and US President George W. Bush.Howard is toast. As Josh Marshall might say, put a fork in him.
He also has been a supporter of Prime Minister John Howard but would not say if Mr Howard should step aside.
"We'll have to see and make a judgment at the end of the year," he said.
Now get out the popcorn, if you so wish. Watch the editors at The Murdoch Australian fall over themselves trying to reverse their positions on Rudd. Watch for some trenchant, biting criticism of Howard from unexpected "expert opinion" corners. Watch for mounting Coalition leadership speculation. Watch Howard's big bottom lip start to tremble, the sweat beading on his brow, the angry little eyes flitting to and fro, bursting with barely supressed ire behind his bloodied bifocals.
Or just switch off your TVs and wait till the whole stupid show is over and done with.
UPDATE: Murdoch was "firm" when dismissing speculation that Howard should have handed over to Costello. So who will it be? The "murmurings" have already begun:
Confidants of Mr Howard said the murmurings, sparked by backbenchers spooked by Labor leader Kevin Rudd's extended political honeymoon, was completely unfounded.Howard's boys are insisting he has nipped speculation in the bud, and he isn't going anywhere. Popcorn, anyone?
"He has no intention of resigning or retiring," said an informed Government source...
One senior backbencher outlined a scenario in which Mr Howard would step aside in May, after Mr Costello delivered his 12th budget. The Liberals' national conference in early June would then become a farewell tribute to the Prime Minister, the MP said, and kick-start a Costello-led charge to the polls.
The MP said the fear in some marginal electorates was that voters had stopped listening to the Prime Minister and it would take something "radical" like swapping to Mr Costello to switch them back onto the Liberal message. A few MPs expressed concern that Mr Howard appeared to have lost his political touch.
I am changing the title of this blog from Howard Out (originally it was going to be a campaign blog, but it's not much of a campaign when Howard still trails by 20 points) to Howard Death Watch. I will make a similar change at my Bush Out blog, and hopefully spend more time blogging at Riding the Juggernaut.