Enda caught in the middle between Eamon and Brian…

Despite the poor showing in the polls, Fianna Fail have one secret, get-out-of-jail-free card they can play against both Labour (soaring ahead at 33% in the latest Ipso-MRBI poll) and Fine Gael (now level pegging at 24% with Fianna Fail). They’ve been in government for so long, they have acquired the knack of being plausible. Very much an underestimated quality in Irish politics.

A normally talented performer in Dail, even Joan Burton was tempted to jump the shark with her ‘steeped in infamy’/Pearl Harbour line on the bank guarantee deal. The crisis in the Irish banking system goes back a long way beyond 28th September 2008, but it is one of Labour’s golden differentiators with both FF and FG.

But too much reliance of hyperbole, can take its toll as voters concentrate on the main issues facing the country as the polls get closer. They will need a credible counter to the “but we’re doing the right thing” mantra from every FF spokesman repeated ad nauseum for the last 18 months. There is a certain credibility tax in not approaching the issue directly and relying on the natural anger with the government parties.

As for the poll itself, this suggest’s the Red C poll rather than the Landsdowne/TV3 poll was the outlier. No one inside FF is taking the threat from Labour lightly, and Enda doesn’t seem to know how to.

From Fianna Fail expect an out and out attack on Gilmore’s (who at 49% outstripes the other leaders by more than double the approval ratings of Enda Kenny) Democratic Left background, and serious man playing onslaught as we get closer to the election. From Fine Gael, expect more confusion as to where the primary enemy is.

Fianna Fail will be be pleased at least that after Cowen’s ‘tired and emotional’ spake to the nation, they are on a 3% move upwards. There is no significant change for the Greens or Sinn Fein.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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