Polling in the Prime Minister's electorate has suggested that John Howard will lose his seat.
The important caveat is that it's six months away from the election.
Even so, there's good reason to expect Howard will be only the second PM in Australian history to be dumped by his electorate.
His opponent, ex-tv journalist Maxine McKew, has a high profile, is very intelligent - yet tempered with humility - and is, well, a listening sort of person.
But the most telling indicator is the general polls. With the opposition getting bad press in recent times, and last week's Budget spreading the money around, the government should expect a bounce back in the polls, at the very least.
But it didn't happen. Each successive poll solidifies the consistency of the results.
One comment made about this election was particularly apt: it's very much like the 1996 election, where PM Keating was behind. Both sides of politics were expecting him to pull a rabbit out of the hat, as he had done before.
But it didn't happen.
The clearest rationale for the poll results: voters are not listening to Howard's government any more. The Budget's largesse had no nett effect. And if the electorate as a whole can't even be swayed by money, then it's obvious that the prevailing sentiment is fundamental and entrenched.
I expect this to be the turning point. Watch the Liberals get increasingly desparate. Break ranks. Do stupid things.
Education minister Julie Bishop was not answering the questions put to her on last night's Lateline. She was instead keeping on song with the government line, ignoring the question. It is a common tactic, it has happened for years, but right now it's simply whiffy. It's not that the electorate is starting to recognise this form of dishonesty for what it is - it's more that they have stopped putting up with it coming from the government.
This is precisely the time not to play politician, but that's all they have left to do. That, and panic.
Update 16-May-07: Contrast Bishop above with Peter Costello's performance on The 7.30 Report last night. His words left no useful impact, but I certainly noticed he was a lot more relaxed than his colleagues. Of course. Election loss is the only way he'll succeed Howard as Liberal leader. Costello wins either way.
Update 29-May-07: subsequent to this post, there have been a few comments about the electorate no longer listening to Howard. Pretty obvious, really, as an explanation for the opinion polls being so sticky. Well, now Howard has cottoned on, and made the same observation to the caucus. Not that he could identify a solution... the parallels are very strong with the 1996 election, which produced the landslide that propelled Howard to power in the first place.