When Pauline Marois dissolved her minority government of only 18 months and launched a new election campaign in Quebec just four weeks ago, the vote was hers to lose.

It appears she may have done so.

Barring a significant shift in voting intentions in the final hours of the campaign, or a serious lapse by the polls, the Parti Québécois will lose Monday and be replaced by Philippe Couillard's Liberals. If that occurs, the result would be only the most recent case of a political party losing an election they had every right to expect to win.

But unlike the last such example, when Christy Clark's B.C. Liberals overcame a 20-point deficit to win re-election in May, 2013, the upset will not have taken place because of the efforts of the underdog. Instead, in Quebec, it seems Couillard will be winning by default.

Rarely have we seen such a disorganized and chaotic campaign as the one waged by Marois and the PQ. Things started out relatively well, with the PQ enjoying a wide lead among francophones thanks, in part, to the party's determination to push through the controversial but popular secular charter.

The recruitment of media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau appeared to be, according to most observers (including this one), the last piece of the puzzle that would solidify the PQ's lead and secure it victory. He bolstered the PQ's economic credibility. That such a wealthy and powerful person would bother to run for public office in a support role was a real vote of confidence in the PQ and the premier.

It all went downhill from there, but not necessarily for the reasons some thought it might at the time.

It was not even Péladeau’s fault either. But if someone who was on the political right and no friend to organized labour (traditionally, a significant supporter of the PQ) could be a prominent member of the government, it suggested he could only sacrifice those political views in the quest for the common goal that unified the PQ: independence.

At a stroke (or, rather, a fist-pump), the campaign that Marois wanted to wage on the economy and the charter was suddenly about a potential referendum.

Couillard had already been banging on about a referendum from the start, though it seemed to be nothing more than the usual campaign tactics of Liberal leaders past. But as focus turned towards a third referendum after Péladeau's messiah-like arrival, Marois did nothing to douse those fires by refusing to rule out holding a referendum in her next mandate.

Worse, Marois fueled those fires by foolishly answering the questions of journalists asking how borders and the Canadian dollar would be handled in a sovereign Quebec, rather than waving them off and sticking to her core message.

From that point, the PQ campaign began to unravel. An event was held in which a PQ minister questioned if students from outside of Quebec were trying to steal the vote, based on some irregularities subsequently dismissed by the electoral authority.

With the campaign now centred around the question of a referendum, François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec was further shunted aside after already being squeezed out on the charter debate, and his party lost support to the Liberals.

Couillard did well enough to secure his position in the first debate. He stumbled in the second, but it was Legault who took advantage. With Marois no longer looking like a winner as her own polling numbers softened, the CAQ started to make gains at the expense of the PQ.

Couillard stuck to his simplistic campaign strategy of making the vote a choice between "jobs or a referendum", while the PQ desperately tried to regain the momentum.

Story continues after slideshow

Loading Slideshow...

There was a bizarre event in which 89-year-old Janette Bertrand, a former television star who supports the charter, sounded off on immigration.

Then Marois announced tax cuts would occur when the government reaches a surplus, a rather significant policy proposal that had not been mentioned before nor included in the PQ’s last budget.

But the Liberals have done little to win this campaign themselves.

Couillard has been steady enough, but is far from a stellar campaigner. He has struggled to handle questions related to integrity and language. And after the harsh rejection handed to Jean Charest and the Liberals just 18 months ago, it is difficult to believe Quebecers have come to forgive the party so quickly.

Instead, Couillard’s party is likely to win on Monday because it is the best vehicle to block the PQ.

A poll by Ipsos Reid for CTV News conducted earlier this week found that 39 per cent of Liberal voters are casting a ballot for the party primarily to prevent another referendum. Another 10 per cent are voting Liberal to stop the PQ's charter.

Just 22 per cent said they were voting Liberal for jobs and a better economy.

All signs pointed to the PQ being able to win when the campaign began. The party was leading in the polls, and particularly among the demographics that would give it victory.

Couillard had stumbled in the previous months, chiefly on the question of the charter, and was looking like a weak leader. Francophones who had voted for the CAQ in 2012 were flocking to the PQ.

But a misunderstanding of the concerns and priorities of Quebecers, and an inability to rebound once the campaign was knocked off balance, looks likely to have cost Marois and the PQ the election they could have won.

Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers every week. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.

Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • In this Monday, Oct. 30, 1995 file picture, police watch a fire burn underneath a "Oui" pro-separatist sign after the federalists won the Quebec referendum. In Canada's May 2, 2011 federal election, voters dealt Quebec's separatists their worst humiliation in modern memory and set off a debate about whether the mostly French-speaking province even needs a separatist movement in this globalized age. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Tom Hanson)

  • In this Friday, Oct. 27, 1995 file picture, a large Canadian flag is passed through a crowd in as thousands streamed into Montreal from all over Canada to join Quebecers rallying for national unity three days before a referendum that could propel Quebec toward secession. In Canada's May 2, 2011 federal election, voters dealt Quebec's separatists their worst humiliation in modern memory and set off a debate about whether the mostly French-speaking province even needs a separatist movement in this globalized age. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

  • MONTREAL, OCT. 30--SAYING NO--Daniel Johnson Quebec Liberal Leader and leader of the No campaign in the Quebec referendum delivers his victory speech after the No side won by a slim margin in Montreal, Monday.(CP {PHOTO)1995(stf-Fred Chartrand)fxc

  • MONTREAL, Oct. 30--Members of the Yes and No camps clash on the streets of Montreal after the No victory in the Quebec referendum Monday night. (CP PHOTO) 1995 (stf-Tom Hanson)ROY

  • Dejected Yes supporters stand silently at their campaign headquarters in Montreal Monday night, Oct. 30, 2005 as they go down to a narrow defeat in the province's referendum vote. Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the Quebec sovereignty referendum vote that was held on Oct. 30, 1995. (CP PICTURE ARCHIVE/Paul Chiasson)

  • MONTREAL, Oct. 30-- Bloc Quebecois leader Lucien Bouchard wipes his brow as he is joined on stage with his wife Audrey Best after the defeat of the Yes side in the Quebec referendum in Montreal Monday night. (CP PHOTO) 1995 (stf-Paul Chiasson)ROY

  • A Yes supporter at the campaign headquarters in Montreal looks dejected as vote results come in on the Quebec referendum Monday night, Oct. 30, 1995. (CP PHOTO/Tomn Hanson)

  • MONTREAL, Oct. 30--No side supporters wave Quebec and Canadiasn flags as they take part in a caravan through the streets of Montreal Monday as the province votes on a referendum on sovereignty. (CP PHOTO) 1995 (stf-Tom Hanson)ROY

  • Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien casts his ballot, Oct. 30, 1995, in Ste-Flore, a Shawinigan suburb, to vote in the referendum on the sovereignty of Quebec. (CP PHOTO/Jacques Boissinot)

  • MONTREAL, Oct. 30--NO VICTORY--No supporters respond to poll results, in Montreal Monday, as the pro-Canada camp move above 50 percent of the popular vote on their way to a slim victory in the Quebec referendum. (CP PHOTO) 1995 (stf-Jacques Bossinot) rpz

  • MONTREAL, Oct. 30--Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney casts his ballot in the Quebec referendum Monday in Montreal. (CP PHOTO 1995 (str-Robert Galbraith)ROY

  • MONTREAL, Oct. 30--A small group of Non supporters carry Quebec and Canadian flags as they parade through the streets of Montreal Monday. (CP PHOTO) 1995 (stf-Tom hanson)ROY

  • Quebec Referendum photo taken October 29, 1995. (CP PHOTO) 1998 (stf-Ryan Remiorz)

  • Yes supporters wave Quebec flags and posters during a Yes rally in Montreal Wednesday, Oct. 25, 1995. The referendum vote will be held Oct. 30, 1995. (CP PHOTO/Rayan Remiorz)

  • A voter gets set to cast his ballot in Montreal Sunday Oct. 22, 1995 as advance polls open across Quebec for people who will be unable to vote in the sovereignty referendum Oct. 30. (CP PHOTO/Ryan Remiorz)

  • Some of the 4000 Yes supporters display their conviction Sunday Oct. 22, 1995, at a Yes rally in Quebec City where the three leaders, Mario Dumont, Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard spoke. The referendum vote will be held Oct. 30, 1995. (CP PHOTO/Jacques Boissinot)

  • UP NEXT: The Most, Least Popular Premiers

  • Source: Angus Reid online survey, Dec. 2013 NOTE: Prince Edward Island was not polled and Kathy Dunderdale recently resigned as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • 9. Kathy Dunderdale, Newfoundland and Labrador (PC)

    Approve: 24% Disapprove: 69% Unsure: 7%

  • 8. Greg Selinger, Manitoba (NDP)

    Approve: 28% Disapprove: 62% Unsure: 10%

  • 7. David Alward, New Brunswick (PC)

    Approve: 31% Disapprove: 57% Unsure: 12%

  • 6. Alison Redford, Alberta (PC)

    Approve: 31% Disapprove: 63% Unsure: 6%

  • 5. Pauline Marois, Quebec (PQ)

    Approve: 32% Disapprove: 62% Unsure: 6%

  • 4. Kathleen Wynne, Ontario (Liberal)

    Approve: 35% Disapprove: 50% Unsure: 15%

  • 3. Christy Clark, British Columbia (Liberal)

    Approve: 42% Disapprove: 51% Unsure: 7%

  • 2. Stephen McNeil , Nova Scotia (Liberal)

    Approve: 57% Disapprove: 28% Unsure: 14%

  • 1. Brad Wall, Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan Party)

    Approve: 66% Disapprove: 27% Unsure: 7%

  • UP NEXT: Canadian Politicians Who Tried Pot

  • Rob Ford

    Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he has had his <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/28/rob-ford-marijuana-wynne_n_3831389.html" target="_blank">fair share of marijuana</a>. "Oh, yeah. I've smoked a lot of it."

  • Justin Trudeau

    The federal Liberal leader opened up to HuffPost about his experience with marijuana in August. "Sometimes, I guess, I have gotten a buzz, but other times no. I’m not really crazy about it.”

  • Tom Mulcair

    The Opposition leader's office told HuffPost this summer that Mulcair <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/22/justin-trudeau-marijuana-peter-mackay_n_3797481.html" target="_blank">has smoked in the past</a> but not since he was elected to office. Mulcair was elected to the National Assembly of Quebec in 1994.

  • Jim Flaherty

    Said the <a href="http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v02/n506/a09.html" target="_blank">Tory finance minister</a>: "Yeah, in my teenage years... a couple of times, I have to admit: I didn’t like it."

  • Marc Garneau

    The Liberal MP and Canada's first astronaut said he tried marijuana as a <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Politics/Power+%26+Politics/ID/2402495133/" target="_blank">student in the 1970s in England. </a> "It's not my thing. I stopped because it wasn't doing anything for me."

  • Kathleen Wynne

    The premier of Ontario said she <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/28/kathleen-wynne-marijuana-pot_n_3830736.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics" target="_blank">smoked pot decades ago</a>. "I have smoked marijuana but not for the last 35 years."

  • Darrell Dexter

    Said the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/29/darrell-dexter-marijuana-pot_n_3837009.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics" target="_blank">former premier of Nova Scotia</a>: "Like every other person I knew back in the '70s when I went to university, some of whom are actually in this room, I would have tried it, the same as other people at that time."

  • Christy Clark

    Said the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/01/christy-clark-marijuana-use-pot_n_1469321.html" target="_blank">premier of British Columbia</a>: "I graduated from Burnaby South Senior Secondary in 1983 and there was a lot of that going on when I was in high school and I didn't avoid it all together."

  • Tim Hudak

    The leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario admitted he's <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2011/08/18/hudak_admits_to_smoking_pot.html" target="_blank">puffed in the past.</a> "I was a normal kid, I had a normal upbringing, a normal life in university. I experimented from time to time with marijuana. It’s a long time ago in the past and in the grand scheme of things."

  • Paul Martin

    The former prime minister of Canada <a href="http://www.ctvnews.ca/" target="_blank">told CTV News</a>: "The answer is: I never smoked. I never smoked anything, but there was an earlier time, years ago, when (my wife) made some brownies and they did have a strange taste."

  • Kim Campbell

    The former prime minister admitted while running for the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives that <a href="http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/08/22/chris-selley-trudeau-pot-revelation-underscores-one-of-his-few-actual-policy-positions/" target="_blank">she tried weed.</a> "And I inhaled the smoke."

  • Jack Layton

    Said the former NDP leader: "Yes, and some might say I never exhaled."

  • Dalton McGuinty

    The former premier of Ontario said he <a href="http://www.cfdp.ca/cita99.htm" target="_blank">experimented in his teens</a>, but only twice.

  • Brad Wall

    The premier of Saskatchewan said he was an <a href="http://www.canada.com/topics/news/politics/story.html?id=f23471e8-be96-46cf-9c1f-b43d5c497cdd" target="_blank">"infrequent" user back in university.</a> "It didn't really do anything for me, luckily, because for some, it does lead to other things."

  • UP NEXT: Most Admired Canadians

  • List from Angus Reid Global. <a href="http://www.angusreidglobal.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Suzuki-tops-list-of-admired-Canadians.pdf" target="_blank">View the full results here</a>.

  • Mike Duffy

    Admire: 4% Don't admire: 70% Don't know this person: 22%

  • Conrad Black

    Admire: 5% Don't admire: 69% Don't know this person: 18%

  • John Furlong

    Admire: 6% Don't admire: 23% Don't know this person: 63%

  • Pamela Wallin

    Admire: 7% Don't admire: 59% Don't know this person: 25%

  • Belinda Stronach

    Admire: 11% Don't admire: 45% Don't know this person: 29%

  • Tom Mulcair

    Admire: 20% Don't admire: 40% Don't know this person: 23%

  • Stephen Lewis

    Admire: 20% Don't admire: 21% Don't know this person: 51%