Howard, long a staunch supporter in the war on terror, is trailing his liberal opponent by some ten points in recent polling according to the WSJ. But Australia, in many ways, mirrors the United States:
A few decades ago, an Australian election wouldn't have mattered outside Asia, where Canberra occasionally intervened to put out fires in Pacific Island spats and kept tabs on Indonesia. Since taking office in 1996, however, Mr. Howard has carved out a global role for his country, proving himself a pragmatic and powerful ally in the war on terror. Australian troops are deployed in more hot spots than at any point in the country's history, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. Back at home, he's kept Australia's economic engines purring; the federal government is wholly debt-free and unemployment is at a 33-year low.But 11 years is a long time at the helm and understandably people are getting tired of Howard. But the United States has so few allies in teh war on terror, it would be a shame to lose Howard, whose bluntness offends liberal politically correct sensibilities, but rarely lacks the truth.
This is still a fresh vision of Australia, a nation where "tall poppies" get cut down--a popular phrase for compatriots who succeed too much and need to get taken down a notch. Talk to most Aussies, and they'll tell you they're just a middling-size nation that's largely dependent on mining resources. In fact, they have the world's 15th largest economy and boast some of Asia's most sophisticated services companies and a top-notch military.
Mr. Howard has had such a successful run that most political pundits attribute his polling numbers not to policy blunders but, first, to fatigue and, second, to Labor having finally found an electable challenger.