This week Mr Howard was in Mayo, his former foreign minister’s one-time South Australian seat, campaigning for Mr Downer’s daughter Georgina.
When the Super Saturday by-elections were called, the Liberals thought they had a good chance to pick up Mayo, lost in 2016 to Rebekha Sharkie, from the Nick Xenophon Team (now Centre Alliance).
Ms Sharkie resigned in the citizenship crisis. The Liberals initially believed Ms Downer was an ideal candidate, despite her living in Melbourne.
But soon polling suggested another story — Ms Sharkie was leading Ms Downer 62 per cent to 38 per cent in polls last month.
Some Liberals talk about a two-stage assault on the seat, arguing that if Ms Downer doesn’t win this time, she’ll be well set up for next year’s election.
Well, not if you look at the history. If Ms Sharkie can hold off the Liberals on July 28, she should be in a strong position for the general election.
Crossbenchers hold on.
It’s very hard for a crossbencher to get into the House of Representatives. But when they do, these small players can be difficult to blast out.Andrew Wilkie won the Tasmanian seat of Denison from Labor in 2010, and retained it in 2013 and 2016.Cathy McGowan wrested Indi (Victoria) from Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella in 2013, to be easily re-elected in 2016.