MICHAEL Noonan is streets ahead of Joan Burton as the public's choice of next Finance Minister.
The popularity of the Fine Gael finance spokesman is borne out by the latest Irish Independent/Millward Brown Lansdowne poll, which shows that 44pc of voters would like to see him take over from Brian Lenihan in a Fine Gael/Labour coalition.
Ms Burton, Labour's finance spokeswoman, fell far behind with just 23pc of voters opting for her to take on the role.
Significantly, just 38pc of Labour voters would like to see Ms Burton get the job -- but 69pc of Fine Gael supporters have rowed in behind Mr Noonan.
The damaging results show that even Labour voters are not convinced that the Dublin West TD has the credentials for one of the toughest roles in the Cabinet.
However, Ms Burton has registered a surprisingly high rating amongst Sinn Fein voters, with 28pc in favour of her getting the job.
The results will come as a disappointment to Labour, and particularly for Ms Burton, who has been very vocal in the Dail on topics such as bank bonuses and the EU/IMF bailout.
However, it was widely believed that her reputation was tarnished by an appearance on 'Tonight with Vincent Browne' on TV3 last week, which descended into a spat between Ms Burton, Vincent Browne and MEP Joe Higgins.
After the appearance, Ms Burton described Mr Browne's attitude during the show as "moody," "bullying", and "hectoring" towards her.
She described the tone of the interviewing as "very derogatory" and said that the TV presenter would "not have spoken to a man in that fashion".
However, many felt that Ms Burton was guilty of the same attitude toward Mr Higgins after asking him what she should call him, and then addressing him as "your MEP-ship".
But she could enjoy a surge in popularity after Fine Gael yesterday revealed its economic plan.
Gaping holes were evident, with the party failing to provide any proof of how it could carry through its promise to end borrowing for day-to-day spending in the next five years.
Labour is due to publish its economic plan today and it is widely expected that the gulf between the two parties' policies will have widened.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore had said that his party would be aiming for €7bn in cutbacks and tax increases to reduce the hole in the public finances over the next three Budgets -- instead of the €9bn target adopted by Fine Gael, the EU and the Government.
However, both parties -- and both potential ministers -- are agreed that they will not be introducing a third rate of 48pc tax on individuals earning more than €100,000 a year.