The vibe

Julia can. Tony cannot. Malcolm will. Kevin will not.

No, Dr Seuss isn't visiting Canberra, I jotted those words down recently because - to paraphrase The Castle's Dennis Denuto - it seems to be "the vibe" of who'll be our next Prime Minister.

As a less-than-obsessive follower of politics, I can't tell you whose carbon tax has saved drowning boat people from the Muslim terror of public sector gay marriage because, like most Aussies, I just live my life and pay my bills.

For the last year, though, I've noticed many people who live or work in Canberra screaming from newspapers, TV, radio and the internet that "Julia Gillard Will Lose The Next Election and Tony Abbott Will Win!"

Yet every time I've raised this with people who don't live or work in Canberra they say "I can't even think about Tony Abbott as PM."

Some of them vote Labor, to be sure, but lots have voted Liberal and literally cannot imagine Abbott in the top job - it embarrasses and/or scares them.

Perception is a mighty thing and I believe it's why opposition leaders such as Kim Beazley, Mark Latham, Simon Crean and Brendan Nelson all crashed and burned: average punters stood back and said "Really? I don't think so."

I've had a beer with Tony Abbott and he strikes me as a solid bloke and a good father; it's just when he steps into the world of people who live or work in Canberra, his desire to rule vulgarly consumes his desire to serve.

This is not a good look for politicians - vicious ambition must be gloved, whereas Abbott seems to understand no method other than bare knuckle and bared teeth.

Not that Gillard is much better - she cut the throat of a democratically elected prime minister, Rudd, and there are plenty of voters keen to square up, but not if it means Abbott in The Lodge.

The fact the Coalition even thinks it has a chance with Abbott is testament to how much we resent Gillard's own vicious ambition because, by all other standards, Australia is pumping - the whole world recognises this, except us.

Former Clinton administration labour secretary Robert Reich tweeted last month: "The view from Down Under: 3.5% growth, 5.5% unemployment, high savings, high wages, good education system. What's not to like about Australia?"

Just our leaders, it seems.

Both Gillard and Abbott have vastly more popular heirs to their thrones in Rudd and Turnbull and, if there's one major difference in public perception between the two usurpers, I reckon it's this.

Like Gillard and Abbott, Rudd has also been revealed as viciously ambitious, to the point at which he nearly sank his own government out of spite through ahhh, "alleged" leaks last election.

Turnbull, however, has learnt to mask his ambition, which is all many voters ask: act nice.

Since losing the Coalition leadership, Turnbull has stuck to his values, spoken intelligently and emerged as a true statesman with real-world economic credentials, setting him apart from the mass of political thugs on both the right and left who treat leadership as just a numbers game.

As one person said to me last month: "I have never voted Liberal in my life but I could cope with Turnbull as our PM."

I reckon many other Aussies would actually be proud to have him as leader.

That's the kind of power that makes voters swing and it's why I see Turnbull as opposition leader by early 2013 and then as our next prime minister.

I could be wrong, but then, I don't live or work in Canberra.

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