The leadership issue is set to hurt the Federal Government in the coming election, with a new Herald Poll finding almost half of all voters believe John Howard will not serve his full term if re-elected and have not yet warmed to Peter Costello.
The poll reveals that 47 per cent of voters believe the Prime Minister will retire during the next term and that 41 per cent would be less likely to vote for the Coalition at the election late this year if they thought that Mr Costello, as is widely expected, would be his successor.
This 'anti-Costello' effect includes more than one in five current Coalition supporters - although 36 per cent of Greens supporters say they would be more inclined to vote for the Coalition if Mr Costello was certain to take over after the election.
These figures are terrible news for both Costello and Howard. Costello is probably not, contrary to my prediction, organising a challenge to the Man of Steel. Even if he was, these figures would be deeply unhelpful to any challenge. In the same way, these figures mean Howard will face more and more questions about whether he will (or can) serve another term that would have him turn 69 before the 2007 election.
At the same time, Paul Keating had similar negatives in 1992 and went on to win the 1993 general election.