Prime Minister Jean Chretien says his opponents within his own
Liberal party are underestimating him again, and he confidently predicts
he has enough friends in the party to put together
an organization to beat back any challenge to his leadership
Chretien said yesterday he has made a political career of
exceeding expectations -- and he will do so again.
In an interview with The Toronto Star, he dismissed polls
suggesting his rival Paul Martin is more popular in the
Liberal party, saying former party leader John Turner was also
once seen as the "white knight" in waiting.
"It's easy to be popular when you're outside," he said.
As he prepared to do battle in his toughest fight
during 12 years at the party helm, the prime minister
was relaxed and animated during a 50-minute conversation in his
living room at 24 Sussex Dr.
He promised to draw on the lessons of history to
ensure he will leave his party in its best possible
shape when he departs.
He predicted a historic deal on African aid at next
week's G-8 summit, which he chairs in Kananaskis, Alta.; he
denied any intervention in Izzy Asper's decision to fire Ottawa
publisher Russell Mills, and shrugged off questions of media concentration.
He also said he personally knows that Martin's support in
caucus is inflated. A number of MPs report receiving personal
phone calls from their leader as Chretien seeks to shore
up support before party voting on his future begins in