Well, here we go. Bush has finally touched down Down Under, and on that bombshell the APEC media circus is finally underway. For John Winston Howard, this is it - the last opportunity to boost his flat-lining popularity before he calls an election.
Howard and Bush will be out on the water today, having lunch with their hand-picked military, political and media stooges. The story will almost certainly top the TV news tonight. There will be much more of the same over the coming week. And then, I suspect, there will be time for just one more Newspoll before Howard calls the election.
But what if that final pre-election poll shows that even APEC has not given Howard a boost? What then? I can't help wondering if Howard might not - even at this late stage - step down "in the best interests of the Party" and let Costello eagerly fling himself off the election cliff into political oblivion. It would be a short plank for Costello to walk - a five-week orgy of smirking self-congratulation, then into the hungry jaws of the post-mortem sharks. Meanwhile, Howard could walk off the political scene (stage right) still pretending his political legacy was intact.
Costello could tweak a few unpopular policies (esp. WorkChoices) and reshuffle the cabinet - well, what have they got to lose?