For the first time, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell is not being so emphatic about seeking a fourth term in the 2013 election.
"I'm 62 years old so I'll have an opportunity to consider that, but first I've got to make sure we get our economy thriving," Mr. Campbell told CTV in an interview Wednesday.
The comments were at odds with the Premier's bullish talk since leading his B.C. Liberals to a third straight majority last May, that he'll be at the helm for a fourth election in May, 2013. But as the anniversary of that election passes this week, the Liberals are under political siege.
They have been hammered by criticism over their commitment to the harmonized sales tax, which has fuelled a massive petition effort. Party support has plunged in the polls.
Mr. Campbell told CTV, "it's been an incredibly tough year. I've said that to people before. In all of my time in public life, I've never had as difficult a year as this."
Mario Canseco, public affairs vice-president for Angus Reid Strategies, said it appears that Mr. Campbell, first elected Premier in 2001, may be realizing it may be difficult to repair the damage.
Public scorn over the HST is galvanizing a core of voters who may never again be receptive to the Premier, and even Mr. Campbell's enthusiastic participation in the Winter Olympics have not provided much of a polling bounce, Mr. Canseco said.
The best hope for the Liberals, he said, would be Mr. Campbell's gracious departure and replacement.
"Mr. Campbell is realizing it was easy to defeat the NDP by running a couple of times against their economic record. Doing it a fourth time after the HST is going to be very difficult," he said. "If they want to save the B.C. Liberal brand and have it ready for the next election, they may have to look somewhere else [for a leader]"