Conventional wisdom (presuming there is such a thing) has Conservative Tim Hudak with a small lead over Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty for the Oct. 6 provincial election.
The lead is not insurmountable, but to some, any Tory lead is a bit of a puzzle. Hudak has not been a dynamic presence over the past couple of years -- no ranting and railing for change and attracting all sorts of publicity.
In fact, he seems to have been practicing the Dormouse approach -- quiet, laid back, not making waves, just offering himself as an alternative.
Conservative diehards probably don't see it that way, but sometimes the most effective tactic is not to be yelling and screaming, but to create the impression you're ready to pick up the pieces when the other guy fumbles.
One of the Liberal ploys in the coming election is to sound the voice of doom -- not for the province if Hudak is elected, but for themselves the way things are going.
Rarely has a government party expressed so much pessimism about its electoral future. Liberals acknowledge they are behind, posing as underdogs, which may have the effect of lulling the Tories into over-confidence (unlikely, but you never know), and also rallying dispirited Liberals into a do-or-die frame of mind.
Mind you, Hudak's lead is only a few points, so it's no cake walk.
Already there's sniping that Hudak is flip-flopping on various issues. He probably is, but so what? Much of politics is pragmatism, and the flavor of the moment.
When Hudak said he wanted to get rid of the Ontario Human Rights Commission there was applause from people like me who think that body is more menacing than useful. Now he says he'd prefer to "fix it" rather than scrap it. Maybe that's politics in play, but at least it's encouraging to have a premier who isn't hornswoggled by these zealots.
Meanwhile in the U.S. the Republican bloodletting is underway for next year's presidential election. To us, safely up in Canada, it's hard to see anyone by Mitt Romney as being the most credible Republican candidate.
But Texas Gov. Rick Perry is well ahead in polls -- which probably puts the kibosh on Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann; they both appeal to Tea Partiers, which is another way of saying the militant middle lass.
Romney and Perry are viewed by some Republicans as the weakest presidential candidates since Michael Dukakis. If so, it could be argued that President Obama looks to be the weakest incumbent president since Jimmy Carter.
All of this adds up to something of an endorsement for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose stature gains as Canada solidifies its position as arguably the most healthy and stable economy in the developed world.
The reality of Harper's majority government seems destined to help Hudak become Tory Premier of Ontario.
A lot can change before the Ontario vote is in, but whatever happens it looks as if Canada is firmly entrenched in the catbird seat, and there's little that the frail leadership of the federal Liberals and NDP can do about it.