Fighting from front a tricky gameplan
Published 18/02/2016 | 02:30
Fine Gael thought it was going to be fashionable to vote for them - and why wouldn't they? They had all the bling, appeared generous with their gifts and have been the most popular politicians in the Dáil for some time now.
But at some point in the past 10 days, the trend changed and people began to see them as fickle and untrustworthy.
It's hard not to think that a large part of the problem is that their actual 'cool kids' were pushed into the background by the leader who wanted to prove a point.
Enda Kenny didn't like the long-standing perception that he was afraid of media appearances and weak during TV debates.
So we were told that the Taoiseach would be available to the media every day throughout the campaign. He would confound the critics and exceed expectations by leading from the front.
But there is a reason the media has written over many years that Kenny isn't the best performer when in the spotlight, and now it's coming home to roost.
The Mayo TD has been a good captain for Fine Gael, but that doesn't mean he's the best player.
With his star strikers, Leo and Simon, confined to the benches (in their constituencies), he has scored a series of own goals and now, as the clock ticks down, they are being called on to clean up the mess.
In the meantime, the old gang in Fianna Fáil regrouped and decided they could make an unexpected comeback.
But they have a different problem. While their captain is a big match performer, he lacks adequate back-up.
Micheál Martin is at front and centre of the Fianna Fáil campaign to the point where the casual observer would be forgiven for thinking he's a one-man army.
It was Martin who took to the airwaves yesterday to defend his record from an attack by the current Minister of Health.
Where was the Fianna Fáil health spokesman or one of his frontbench? We've seen very little of them throughout the campaign except for the routine daily press conferences.
So the election is turning into a tale of two would-be taoisigh with very different strengths. The question is how they will use them over the coming days to try to win the electorate's support.
Kenny needs to cut his Cabinet loose and stop worrying about the long-term impact that might have on his leadership.
And Martin needs to show he has the team to keep his own recovery going.