I won't bother providing links to support my claims in this post, but here goes.
It seems that many people sense a sudden turnaround in the image and political fortunes of one Kevin Michael Rudd. It's not just News Limited journalists either, whose changes of tune often seem strangely uniform after hints appear from the lips of the boss, but commentators such as Michelle Grattan, Bernard Keane, and even the folks at the lefty blog Larvatus Prodeo.
The climate change skeptics of the media and blogosphere think that Tony Abbott's ascension to being Leader of the Opposition is the explanation. But that seems far too simple and easy to me. I admit I pretty much despise Abbott for the opportunistic way he trashed climate change policy he previously supported to grab the leadership, but I still feel that Rudd's sudden tarnished image is more one of his own making than as a result of change of leadership. Here's my list of what's gone wrong for him:
1. Copenhagen: Rudd expected to be welcomed as a hero and to have an important role in negotiations. He took an enormous delegation with him to cheer just in case the leaders of 90% of the rest of the world said "who's he?" Instead, the conference showed all the dangers of any process organised by the UN, being hijacked by a bunch of mismanaged countries more interested in shaking down the West than talking about emissions, and one big powerful country (China) playing a spoiler role because it can.
So, it turned into a PR liability very quickly.
I did not expect it to go so badly either, but it was Rudd who put a lot of political eggs in the basket on this one.
2. He took a holiday. For once, Kevin stopped appearing on TV for a few weeks in January. He gave clear air for Abbott to turn up on whatever TV or radio appearance he wanted, with little government response following. If this was a deliberate tactic, it didn't work. Even though there was nothing significant policy-wise said in this period, all these "action" shots of (Tony in his speedos, Tony in his lycra cycling gear), at least give people the impression that he might be someone who can get things done. Which leads to the next point:
3. A sudden realisation that Rudd hasn't got all that much done. It seems to have taken a hell of a long time for the polls to reflect a cynicism in the public that Rudd is all waffling talk and light on the ground on actual results, but it finally seems to have kicked in.
Maybe it's the realisation that we're close to an election and (amongst other things) few students have got their free laptop; aboriginal housing is being fixed at a glacial pace and at huge cost; nothing obvious has changed in the State hospital system and any Federal 'takeover' is receding into the distance; even industrial relations changes seem to have taken a long time to become fully effective.
4. Now that Rudd has started to appear in the media again, he is doing it in a Presidential style which serves to highlight his deficiencies as a speaker and advocate. His weekly sessions on Sunrise to answer viewer questions is an appallingly dull format, and I don't understand why his media advisers (and the shows producers) haven't changed it completely already. (I missed it this morning, but could hear it in the background and suspect it may have tweaked already.)
I missed his "Q&A" show, but take it that it didn't go over so well. And when will some adviser be brave enough to tell him "Kevin, you simply have to stop with the 'and you know what'?" and his other rhetorical cliches which people are well and truly sick of.
Oddly, from what I see of his parliamentary performance, he's actually still looking confident there, but this counts for little just at the moment.
5. He never was very likeable but people seemed to give him the benefit of the doubt. That attitude is drying up fast.