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Tuesday 14 August 2018

Andrew Lynch: Enda's looking good but this election is a long way from over

Could this general election campaign still hold one final twist?

With the finishing line now in view, that thought must be playing on the minds of Enda Kenny and his increasingly nervous advisers.

As the Fine Gael leader learned in 2007 when he was overtaken by Bertie Ahern on the final lap, there is no excuse for complacency until the votes are counted -- and with almost 20pc of the electorate still undecided, there is still a lot to play for between now and Friday.

The trend in the most recent opinion polls has been remarkably consistent.

Stuck

FG are steadily going up, Labour are steadily going down and all other parties are more or less stuck.

While Kenny is now a dead cert to be Taoiseach, there remains a huge question mark over whether he might be able to govern on his own or will need to invite Eamon Gilmore in for coalition talks.

As yesterday's dangerously triumphant rally at the Aviva Stadium showed, FG can hardly believe how well their campaign is going.

The strategy of condemning Labour as a high-tax party has worked like a dream, while Kenny himself is visibly growing in confidence all the time.

Their biggest fear now is that they may have peaked too soon, frightening away some floating voters who are wary of giving too much power to a single party.

Gilmore will hammer home this point over the last few days, arguing that the country needs a balanced and stable government -- and that can only happen if he is in it.

The Labour leader must be wishing that he could quietly take down those 'Gilmore for Taoiseach' posters, since his shaky performances on the campaign trail have made them an embarrassment. Even worse, his scare tactics against FG's public spending cuts appear to have backfired -- which means that instead of achieving a historic breakthrough as he had originally hoped, his biggest challenge now is to stop Labour's support bleeding away.

Fianna Fail are still in dire straits.

With the polls showing absolutely no sign of a Micheal Martin bounce, an increasingly snippy leader is pleading with the party's core supporters to turn out on election day.

This brings to mind the maxim of Bill Clinton's colourful political adviser James Carville -- "show me a campaign that's appealing to its base and I'll show you a campaign that's going down the toilet".

Gerry Adams has problems of his own.

Awkward

The Sinn Fein president has been clearly shaken by a series of awkward questions about his IRA past, most specifically the claim that he ordered the appalling murder of Jean McConville in 1972. These murky allegations are now threatening to overshadow the Shinners' entire campaign, which is probably why their poll numbers appear to have hit a glass ceiling.

The Greens, meanwhile, are still looking for a fig leaf to protect what's left of their dignity. John Gormley's latest wheeze is to suggest that he could help Enda Kenny to make up the numbers in a new coalition. However, it's hard to do that if you don't have any TDs -- and unless the electorate takes pity on them, that's starting to look like the Greens' ultimate fate.

So how will the last few days play out? FG and Labour will probably tone down their attacks on each other, since they know that a coalition between them is still the most likely outcome. There is also one last three-way leaders' debate to be chaired by Miriam O'Callaghan tomorrow night, although only a truly horrendous gaffe by Kenny would count as a game-changing moment.

The election is still far from over. A big chunk of the electorate is still making up its mind, looking for a strong reason to support one party or the other. So far, the leaders haven't given them one -- so if Kenny, Gilmore or Martin have any secret weapons left up their sleeves, this might be a good time to pull them out.

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