What's wrong with a Liberal campaign now free-falling toward a jolting landing is what's wrong with Paul Martin as prime minister.
Contradictory, inconsistent and still searching for a focus, this Liberal tour and Martin's leadership reflect the dangers of power exercised without discipline.
Even the most desperate attack advertising — and new Liberal television spots shout panic — can't hide that this election isn't about Stephen Harper. It's about expectations Martin couldn't meet, a pinball government that ricochets bumper-to-bumper and a ruling party so accustomed to privilege that skimming public money to pay friends is just taking care of business.
In retrospect, the expectations placed on Paul Martin were simply far too high. He was publicly expected to sweep the country, eliminate the democratic deficit as he did the fiscal one and restore harmony with the U.S. all without breaking a sweat.
People mistook his success in gaining absolute control over the Liberal Party for superior leadership ability.
But Paul Martin never stopped running for the Liberal leadership. His war against Jean Chretien and his supporters never ended; so many ministers, MPs, senior officials and advisors were forced out or destroyed politically without an olive branch being extended. He is still fighting his predecessor even as the party prepares to elect his successor following a likely defeat.
Paul Martin just didn't know that he'd won.
And now he may lose because of it.