A 12-year-old could have seen this coming.
"Too bad there's never a 12-year-old around when you need one." -Groucho Marx
1. Layton has been the most popular party leader for, like forever. As far back as May 2010, an Angus Reid poll in Quebec found that Quebeckers were longing to vote NDP, if only it had a shot at power. Too bad for Layton's rivals that they "misunderestimated" him, didn't notice the spadework Layton has been doing in his native province since winning the NDP leadership. And that someday he might be seen by Bloc-weary Quebeckers as having a shot at power.
2. If the election issue were ever to become likeability rather than the economy, as Harper banked on, Layton could do exceeding well.
Again, a March 2011 Angus Reid national survey had Layton as Canada's most popular leader, with voters attributing these words to him: "intelligent" (32), "down to earth" (29%), "honest" (28%), compassionate (27%), open (27%).
By contrast, Harper was "secretive" (39%), "arrogant (38%), "intelligent" (33%), dishonest (30%) and "out of touch" (29%). Ignatieff was "arrogant" (49%), "out of touch" (38%), "boring" (32%), "inefficient" (32%) and "dishonest."
Even before he'd given up on his Grits mid-campaign, Kinsella noted the oddity that neither of the leaders of the two major parties was able to connect with Canadians.
3. The cane, a humanizing touch. Did Jack time that hip surgery well or what?
Lucien Bouchard, seen here with his wife, Audrey Best, single-handedly turned an out-of-favor "Oui" sentiment in the 1995 Quebec referendum into a nail-biting 49.9% near-sovereignty result, his immense, almost cult-like Quebec popularity of the time deriving in no small measure from his having survived a near-fatal brush with flesh-eating disease. Layton, seen here with his wife and fellow MP Olivia Chow, has for months had the sympathy of Canadians over his struggle with prostate cancer. The cane appeared only after his hip surgery in March, which deluded Harper strategists into believing Layton unwilling to force and fight an election. Oops.