It used to be the case that somebody ascending to the Liberal leadership pretty much meant they were Prime Minister in waiting. In 2008 with Stephane Dion, it seemed as if the Liberals awful performance in that election was simply an anomaly. But with a new leader and 3 years since then, this is clearly not the case.
And yet Stephen Harper is hardly a popular leader. In this, his third election, it is very unlikely he'll be able to capture that majority. He's often criticized as being robotic but this almost works in his favour as he is neutral enough to be "the choice for now" while we seemingly wait for the Liberals to get their act together.
After 2008, there were some murmurs about a merging of the left in order to consolidate that support. But deep down, everyone kind of thought "That's ridiculous; it was just one bad election campaign."
Fast forward to today and due to just how much the Liberals are behind the Conservatives, it's evident that strategic voting probably won't even work. The very purpose of that strategy is to do the logical thing and choose one evil over the other. However, this only works if the two sides are fairly close in support. This is no longer the case. These people now realize "We're going to have a Conservative government anyways; I might as well vote my conscience."
This was more-or-less how the NDP were able to pick up 8 seats in 2008. While my question before was whether they are going to be able to keep those pick-ups, it's now whether they are able to increase on that number and begin a parliamentary shift. In the English debate last night, Michael Ignatieff did not show off his Harvard debating skills. On the contrary, Jack Layton, by almost all accounts, was wonderful. For the first time since he started saying he was "running for Prime Minister" a few years ago, I was able to take him seriously. And for the first time, when Iggy tried to keep the narrative at "This election is really between two choices" I considered that he could very well be wrong.
Let me be clear (to steal Stephen Harper's favourite phrase): the Liberals will surely do better than the NDP in this election. However, if the NDP is able to ride debate momentum and improve on their 37 seats, we could be looking at an NDP government, or at least official opposition, sooner than some people think.