Here's what Harper had to say:
Harper said he did not believe there would be "any appetite in Parliament or in the public for another election. I think whoever loses the election of the major parties, their party will begin the process of looking for a new leader." But Harper said he would not end up supporting a carbon tax simply to avoid another election.Now, my suspicion is that the intended purpose of making that statement is to try to provoke a rally-around-the-leader response. But it's worth considering the possibility that it might have the opposite effect.
"I'm running to win this election. If I don't win this election, I'm sure my party will look for another leader," Harper said.
After all, plenty of factions within the Cons - socons, small-government advocates and any remaining red Tories in particular, but potentially including anybody involved with the party based on any principle other than the pursuit of raw power - would surely have experienced at least some frustration with Harper's top-down command structure and consistent stifling of inconvenient viewpoints.
Moreover, there are surely more than a few ambitious would-be leaders who would like the opportunity to take over the party in its current form. And they'd likely be highly attuned to what type of takeover would offer the greatest personal opportunity.
Before today, there was little indication that anybody falling into those categories would have the opportunity to get out from Harper's thumb anytime soon. So anybody who had still stuck around the Cons this long had little reason not to push all out for an election win.
But with Harper himself raising the possibility that he'd be gone as leader if the Cons can't win the election, I have to wonder whether the effect may be to present a strong incentive to tank on Tuesday to those who wouldn't mind seeing Harper gone (or those who just want to take his role).
On the ideological level, it wouldn't be at all surprising for anybody who's been stifled over the past few years to see potential to win a greater share of intraparty clout under new leadership. And a would-be leader could hardly ask for a better individual opportunity than to assume the role of opposing the most likely outcome other than a Con win (being a Dion minority) - or a worse starting point than to try to clean up the mess if Harper keeps power through an economic downturn.
In sum, Harper's ability to impose his shackles on the Cons has always depended on the recognition that he wasn't likely to relinquish the party's top job anytime soon. But now that he's opened the door for somebody else to replace him, the many Cons with reason to want to make that happen will have every reason to want to see Harper lose. And the fact that such calculations have been unleashed just in time for the election could make all the difference as to how the results will turn out.