FINE Gael's 'new arrival' Pat Cox is already trailing his presidential rivals, who have been busily canvassing party members for their support.
Their campaigning has already been noted by several Fine Gael TDs who see Mr Cox as a 'new arrival' who has only joined the party this week compared with the other two contenders. And one of them said that he still had 'long memories' of the Progressive Democrats -- Mr Cox's defunct former party.
Ms McGuinness highlighted the difference between herself and Mr Cox yesterday by saying that she had been meeting party members around the country since her campaign began last month.
"The vibe from the grass roots is extremely solid for my campaign. I've always believed that you build solid from the grass roots up, you don't do it from the top down," she said.
Mr Cox has been fighting off charges that he has been parachuted into the contest by party strategists ever since it emerged that his name was used in private Fine Gael presidential polls.
Ms McGuinness said it was 'very hard to call" who was leading the current 'three-horse race' in Fine Gael.
"I was perhaps out of the stall way earlier. But the fact I have been out there, people are saying to me that they knew from way back I was interested in contesting the presidency on the basis of what I have to offer," she said.
Each Fine Gael candidate will require the backing of 20 TDs and senators, 30 councillors, and five members of the national executive council to enter the Fine Gael selection contest. But Fine Gael Junior Minister Michael Ring played down fears last night that this would prevent Mr Cox from taking part.
"If Pat Cox is a member of Fine Gael, he's not going to be blocked from getting a nomination," he said.
The party's choice will be decided when the selection convention is held in the Red Cow Hotel in Dublin on Saturday July 9. The weighted 'electoral college' voting system sees 70pc of the votes going to TDs, senators and MEPs, 20pc to the councillors and 10pc to the executive council.
But the Labour candidate will be in the field earlier -- with former minister Michael D Higgins favourite to win tomorrow's selection contest in the Mansion House ahead of Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay and former Labour Senator Kathleen O'Meara.