Thus saith the Highly-Placed Source.
Peter MacKay's departure to seek the leadership of the Nova Scotia Tories and premiership was never as strong a possibility as the media made out. MacKay wouldn't have run unless he could have assured himself of a coronation, and he'd have had to jump almost immediately into an election before his honeymoon with the party and voters began to wear off under the heat of anger about health care and gas prices.
Provincial premiers have also traditionally failed to make the transition to prime minister; only one (Sir Charles Tupper) did, after a lapse of nearly thirty years between his tenure as pre-Confederation premier and his two months as prime minister.
If Peter MacKay believes that the federal leadership will come open any time soon, far better for him to stay in Ottawa where he will not hobble himself with an actual governing record.
None of these considerations will get much play with the media, as they're all ready to spin MacKay's staying in Ottawa as an indication that Harper desperately pleaded not to lose this so-called moderate voice of reason.
So-called, because on almost every issue, even social issues, his stand cannot be told apart from Harper's, or from most former Alliance MPs.
But a former PC can be further right than Attila the Hun and still be called a moderate in the media, while the most tepid former Reform/Alliance member is a right-wing radical by default.