As the incumbent government, Kathleen Wynne's Liberals have an intrinsic advantage in the ongoing provincial election campaign in Ontario that both Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath hope to wrestle away.

Will either of them be successful?

Hudak's Progressive Conservatives have managed to set the agenda for the campaign, coming out early with the party platform and policy planks at its core.

Focus since the start of the race has primarily been on Hudak's Million Jobs Plan, and the promise to reduce the public sector by 100,000 positions. His pledge to shrink the size of government is a stark contrast to the less ambitious platform Hudak unsuccessfully presented to Ontarians in 2011.

But this is a long campaign, and Hudak may have played his hand too early. He is already moving to more familiar territory with his attacks on the Liberals concerning the gas plant scandal. It is unlikely that this new tack is going to work.

The story of the gas plants has been in the news for a very long time now, and has not managed to whittle away Liberal support to any great extent. Though the polls are in disagreement, for the most part it seems the Liberals are generally where they were on election night in 2011, before the scandal emerged.

Wynne's Liberals are also polling significantly higher than the party was at the time of Dalton McGuinty's resignation.

Pinning the scandal to Wynne's government may not pay the dividends Hudak is hoping it will. A poll by Abacus Data this past week showed that 18 per cent of Ontarians considered Wynne the person "more honest than most politicians," compared to just nine per cent who said the same for Hudak. If the election is based on trust, Hudak may not win.

If it is a popularity contest, Hudak's chances are even worse. His approval and favourability ratings continue to register far below those of Wynne and Horwath. Even in polls where the PCs hold an overall lead, Hudak can only tie Wynne on who would make the best premier. Otherwise, the Liberal leader beats him by a large margin.

However, every poll that makes the distinction between all eligible and likely voters also show the PCs have a big advantage when it comes to turnout. Unless Liberal supporters can be galvanized to cast a ballot, the Tories will prevail.

The New Democrats are trying to get at the Liberal vote from the other direction, but the platform released this week was hardly the sort of bold move that can transform the race.

The NDP is at risk of making the same mistake that doomed Hudak in 2011. They have not set out to contrast themselves to the Liberals to any great extent, hoping instead to benefit from being a party that is not the Liberals. That strategy failed for the Tories in 2011, and could fail for the NDP in 2014.

The NDP campaign itself appears to be somewhat rudderless, with Horwath explaining her decision not to support the Liberal budget primarily because of trust, rather than anything specific about the spending plan itself. Only 13 per cent of Ontarians told Abacus Data they felt Horwath had the clearest vision for Ontario, compared to 18 per cent apiece for Wynne and Hudak.

New Democrats do have the potential for growth, however. The largest group of swing voters in the province are those who will either vote NDP or Liberal. But the bad news is that, at this stage, these swing voters are leaning towards the incumbent.

According to Abacus Data, these voters are also more focused on the issue of jobs and the economy than they are honesty and accountability, which is more of a priority for PC voters. That does not bode well for the NDP if they are merely hoping to gain from disillusionment with the Liberals as, on the economy, Wynne polls ahead of Horwath among OLP/NDP swing voters. Wynne is well ahead on who would make the best premier among this group.

That leaves the Liberals in a strong position, at least on their left flank. The Tories continue to have the largest bank of committed voters, and their supporters are more likely to bother voting on election day.

The race remains a close one and the PCs are still capable of winning, but so far the Liberals appear to be holding their own.

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.

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  • Too Explosive

    A flyer depicting Ont. PC leader Tim Hudak laughing as he walks away from an exploding hospital is shown. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says the Liberal flyer sent by a Vaughan candidate is "not acceptable." THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

  • JOBS!

    Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak while campaigning at a food truck festival in Whitby, Ont. on Saturday, May 10, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

  • 'Where The Gas Plants Went'

    Ontario Premier and Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne reads to a full day kindergarten class at Westwood Public School in Guelph, Ontario on Wednesday May 14 , 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • But Seriously... A Billion Dollars

    PC Leader Tim Hudak gestures to the the 800-megawatt gas-fired power plant scrapped by the previous Liberal administration, as he talks to the press in Mississauga on Sunday May 18 , 2014. Hudak continues his election campaign. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • Got This Thing In The Bag

    Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath purchases groceries at Eraa Supermarket while campaigning in Toronto, Ont. on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

  • Act Natural

    Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne drives a tractor with instruction from farmer Sandra Vos (right) at a campaign event in Paris, Ontario on Tuesday May 20, 2014, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

  • Wynne-Two Punch

    Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne shows off a pair of boxing gloves she received as a gift, while her partner Jane Rounthwaite (left) looks on in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

  • Daddy's Girl

    Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak, hugs his new born baby Maitland Hudak after greeting supporters at his headquarters during a campaign stop in Grimsby, Ont., on Monday, May 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

  • Don't Have A Cow

    Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath answers media questions at a campaign stop at the monument to Springbank Snow Countess, world champion lifetime butterfat producing cow, in Woodstock, Ont., Friday, May 9, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

  • It's Like You're My Mirror...

    Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak holds a town hall meeting in a hair salon in Pickering, Ontario on Tuesday May 27 , 2014, as he continues his election campaign. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • Reunited.. And It Feels So Good

    Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak eats lunch with Foreign Minister John Baird as he attends an event at the Chateau Laurier during an election campaign stop in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. Ontario goes to the polls June 12th. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

  • Killer Tomatoes

    Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is seen behind a display of tomatoes while shopping at Eraa Supermarket in Toronto, Ont. on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

  • HA HA HA!

    Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak, centre, laughs before he makes an announcement at a packaging plant about creating 40,000 jobs in Ontario with affordable energy during a campaign stop in Smithville, Ont., on Monday, May 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

  • HA HA HA HA!

    Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne talks to members of Toronto's Leaside Lawn Bowling Club before addressing the media as she begins her campaign in Ontario's provincial election on Saturday May 3, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • Gimme...

    Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak jokes with a man about his ice cream cone at a food truck festival during a campaign stop in Whitby, Ont. on Saturday, May 10, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

  • Hoptical Illusion

    Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne pulls a beer at a campaign event in Sudbury, Ontario on Tuesday May 27, 2014, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

  • In A Glass Case Of Emotion

    Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak is seen through a reflection in a window while campaigning at Spin Desserts Cafe and Bistro in Burlington, Ont. on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

  • What's So Funny?

    Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne holds Etobicoke-North MPP Dr. Shafiq Qaadri's eight-month-old baby Salman at a campaign stop in Toronto on Monday, May 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

  • I've Got This...

    Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne practices using a drill during a campaign stop at the Carpenters' Union Local 27 Training Centre in Vaughan, Ont. on Monday, May 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

  • Manual Labour Is FUN

    Campaigning PC Leader Tim Hudak laughs as he tries out a nail gun as he visits a residential construction site while campaigning in Milton, Ont., on Monday, May 26, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel

  • Little Help Please?

    Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne helps a health care worker up off the floor during a group photo at a campaign event in Toronto on Monday June 2, 2014, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

  • Flower Power

    Ontario Conservative Party Leader Tim Hudak buys flowers for Mothers Day with his daughter Miller at Growers Flower Market on Avenue Rd. in Toronto on Sunday, May 11, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

  • That's How I Bowl

    Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne bowls a ball to formally open Toronto's Leaside Lawn Bowling Club's season as she begins her campaign in Ontario's Provincial election on Saturday May 3, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • They Call Me DJ Cut & Scrap

    PC Leader Tim Hudak talks to the media as he sits at a mixing desk at Metalworks Studios, as he hits the campaign trail in Ontario's Provincial election in Mississauga on Monday May 5 , 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • The Guy Behind Me Is All Kinds Of Thirsty

    Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne rests after a run in Milton, Ontario on Monday May 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

  • Subtlety

    Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak speaks to a lunchtime meeting of the Chamber of Commerce in London, Ontario, Friday, May 23, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins

  • Pay Up

    Emely Tscholy and Blaine Connolly protest quietly against "scandals and waste" outside a rally for Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne in Kitchener, Ont., on Sunday, June 8, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel

  • Whoa Baby!

    Premier Kathleen Wynne weighs baby Lucas at a family health care unit on a campaign stop in Lindsay, Ont. on Friday, May 30, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Thornhill

  • I Now Pronounce You...

    Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, centre, and Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak speak after taking part in the Ontario provincial leaders debate in Toronto, Tuesday June 3, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/POOL-Mark Blinch

  • UP NEXT: Federal Conservatives vs. Ontario Liberals

  • Ontario Liberal leader <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/kathleen-wynne/" target="_blank">Kathleen Wynne</a> has taken a number of shots at <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/stephen-harper/" target="_blank">Prime Minister Stephen Harper</a> and his federal Conservatives so far in her campaign. And some federal Tories are firing right back. <em>With files from The Canadian Press</em>

  • 'Stand Up' To Harper

    Wynne <a href="http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/05/04/kathleen-wynne-tells-harper-to-move-out-of-the-way-after-pm-calls-ontario-pension-plan-a-payroll-tax/" target="_blank">wasted no time</a> criticizing the Harper government in her first speech after announcing a provincial vote had been called for June 12. Wynne said the priorities of her government are increasingly at odds with Ottawa. "We need a premier who is willing to stand up to Stephen Harper," she said. "The federal government pours billions of dollars into the oilsands, but when it comes to the Ring of Fire, Stephen Harper has not acted."

  • Ontario Pension Plan? Meh.

    Just hours after the provincial election was called, Harper suggested Wynne's proposal for an Ontario Retirement Pension Plan won't be a hit at the polls. When asked if Wynne could win the election with the plan, the prime minister said <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/02/ontario-pension-plan-stephen-harper_n_5255152.html" target="_blank">increasing taxes isn't the way to go.</a>

  • Wynne To Harper: 'Move Out Of The Way'

    Wynne then called Harper's comments about her pension plan "unusual" and told reporters she's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/03/kathleen-wynne-stephen-harper_n_5258030.html" target="_blank">not in the race to run against the prime minister.</a> "The first choice would have been to have an improvement and enhancement to the Canada Pension Plan, but the federal government is not interested in doing that," she said. "So quite frankly I think that if Prime Minister Harper isn't interested in partnering with us then he should move out of the way."

  • Say It Ain't So, Joe

    Finance Minister Joe Oliver joined the fray, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/03/kathleen-wynne-joe-oliver-ontario-election_n_5258700.html" target="_blank">ripping the budget Wynne tabled</a> a day before calling the election. The spending plan is, essentially, the platform on which Ontario Liberals are running. "This is the route to economic decline, not the route to economic growth or job creation," he told CBC Radio's The House. And Oliver made clear he's also <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/03/kathleen-wynne-joe-oliver-ontario-election_n_5258700.html" target="_blank">no fan of Wynne's pension plan,</a> calling it a $3.5 billion tax on "workers and businesses" that will kill jobs in Ontario. "This isn't the time to do it," he said.

  • 'Nonsense'

    And Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/03/kathleen-wynne-joe-oliver-ontario-election_n_5258700.html" target="_blank">told CBC News </a>that Wynne's comments about alleged Tory inaction on the Ring of Fire file were "nonsense."

  • Oh Really?

    Wynne didn't care much for Oliver weighing in on her budget. In fact, the Ontario Liberal leader <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-votes-2014/kathleen-wynne-harper-taking-over-the-voice-of-tories-in-ontario-1.2630898" target="_blank">accused Harper</a> of "taking over the Conservative voice in the Ontario election."

  • Sorry (But Not Really)

    Oliver later denied to reporters he was trying to intrude on the Ontario election, but was careful to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/05/joe-oliver-ontario-pension-plan_n_5269500.html" target="_blank">repeat his earlier criticism about Wynne's pension proposal.</a> "It's not the time, in my opinion, to impose this type of tax when the Ontario economy is so fragile," he said.

  • Who Wants To Talk About Harper's Pension?

    Wynne then singled out Harper by saying his pension is about 10 times the maximum payout available under the CPP. "Stephen Harper when he retires is going to have about 10 times that amount in his pension," she said. "So the reality is that if he doesn't believe that the Canada Pension Plan should be enhanced, then he should move out of the way and let Ontario do its work."

  • And Then She Released This Tweet...

  • Tony GOES OFF

    Treasury Board President <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/tony-clement/" target="_blank">Tony Clement </a>then took the fight to Wynne during a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/06/ontario-election-2014-tony-clement-wynne_n_5277480.html" target="_blank">segment on CBC's "Power & Politics."</a> The former Ontario MPP didn't mince words, calling Wynne's pension plan proposal a "tax grab" meant to distract from various scandals. "She doesn't want to talk about the gas plants scandal, she doesn't want to talk about E-health scandal. She wants to divert attention from her government's terrible record on these things as well as terrible economic record," he said. "So, I'm not going to play into her campaign strategy, quite frankly."

  • Smirk-Gate?

    Wynne <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2014/05/08/kathleen_wynne_says_stephen_harper_smirked_and_said_people_should_save_for_their_own_retirement.html" target="_blank">told The Toronto Star</a> that, in a private meeting in December, Harper "smirked' and told her people ought to be saving for their own retirement and not count on the government. “It was their fault and people need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and they need to just save because there's lots of opportunities,” she recalled in the paper.

  • Not Quite, Harper Spokesperson Says

    Jason MacDonald, Harper's chief spokesperson, suggested to The Star that Wynne <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2014/05/08/kathleen_wynne_says_stephen_harper_smirked_and_said_people_should_save_for_their_own_retirement.html" target="_blank">wasn't being entirely truthful</a> about her meeting with the prime minister. "Presumably she made the comments she made today to distract from her mismanagement of the Ontario economy and the fact that she can’t run on her party’s record," he said.

  • Don't Forget About Us

    In a speech delivered not far from Parliament Hill, Wynne accused Harper of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/08/ontario-election-2014-wynne-harper-ring-fire_n_5288618.html" target="_blank">neglecting Canada's largest province.</a> "Right now, on a number of important issues, the interests of the people of Ontario are at odds with the policies of Stephen Harper's government," she said. "In a very real way, the federal government is balancing its budget on the backs of Ontarians."

  • Clement Fires Back.. Again

    Clement didn't appreciate Wynne's digs at the prime minister and told reporters he wants Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak to win the election. "[It's] a campaign technique to deflect attention from the disastrous record of the Ontario Liberal government, economic record as well as gas plants and shredding emails and 40 percent hikes in hydro bills," he <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/08/ontario-election-2014-wynne-harper-ring-fire_n_5288618.html" target="_blank">told reporters.</a> "I personally want the election of Tim Hudak as premier of Ontario. I personally do, but we’ll work with anybody who forms the government, of course, in the national interest and the provincial interest."

  • No Surprises

    Wynne then shot back by saying federal Tories are "attacking" because they <a href="http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/05/09/federal-tories-fire-back-at-wynne-clement-attacks-ontario-liberals-disastrous-record-calls-for-partys-defeat/" target="_blank">don't share her government’s values.</a> "We know [Harper] doesn't like it because Tony Clement was sent out to attack today," she told a crowd in Kingston, Ont. "Not a surprise that Tony Clement and Tim Hudak would be on the same page, is it? Not a surprise at all."

  • Alberta Tory MP Weighs In

    Blake Richards, who represents the federal Alberta riding of Wild Rose, shared a story about an Ontario Liberal candidate's <a href="http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/archives/sunnews/politics/2014/05/20140512-214903.html" target="_blank">controversial Facebook posts.</a>

  • UP NEXT: 5 Ontario Liberal Scandals

  • An Uphill Climb?

    Kathleen Wynne is hoping Ontario voters can look past these five scandals when they cast their ballots on June 12. <em> (Information courtesy of The Canadian Press)</em>

  • Ornge

    Ontario's publicly funded air ambulance service has been under fire for almost two years over sky-high salaries, financial irregularities and corruption allegations. A legislative committee has been probing the service's complex structures and pay scales in detail, and opposition parties have been alleging wrongdoing with nearly every revelation. The auditor general has criticized the governing Liberals for failing to oversee Ornge, despite giving it $730 million over five years and allowing it to borrow another $300 million. The Liberals insist Ornge went rogue with a web of for-profit companies and questionable business deals, as well as exorbitant salaries and lavish expenses.

  • Cancelled Gas Plants

    Scandal has swirled around the government's decision to cancel the construction of two Toronto-area gas plants ahead of the 2011 election, in which the government then led by Dalton McGuinty was reduced to minority status. The cancellation costs have now been pegged at $1.1 billion, but opposition parties have accused the Liberals of actively trying to cover up that figure. Ontario's privacy commissioner has concluded that staff working for McGuinty and a former energy minister broke the law by deleting emails pertaining to the project. Ontario Provincial Police are also investigating the document deletions, seizing government computers at both Queen's Park and beyond.