Adrian Dix is poised to become B.C.'s next premier - with less voter support than his predecessor, Carole James, received in the last two provincial elections.
The latest public opinion poll, this one conducted by Forum Research, found that 39 per cent of British Columbians would vote for Dix and the NDP if an election were held today, which is sufficient backing to give the New Democrats a large majority in Victoria.
This certainly doesn't come as any revelation as Dix has been out front of Christy Clark and Co. for several months now, but it does reinforce the notion that B.C. politics is not necessarily about how many people vote for the NDP as it is about how the right wing can fracture itself right out of power.
In every provincial election for the last two decades, with the exception of the debacle of 2001, the NDP has been within a couple of points, plus or minus, of the 40 per cent mark. In fact, James lost the 2005 and 2009 elections with more of the popular vote (42 per cent each time) than Mike Harcourt got when he won in 1991 (41 per cent) and a victorious Glen Clark in 1996 (39 per cent).
With the New Democrats getting their customary share of the vote election after election, the big factor in determining which party rules the province has been the unity, or lack thereof, of the right of centre vote. Harcourt benefited from a Socred/Liberal split, while Clark had Jack Weisgerber's Reformers to thank for his victory.
A more unified right proved too much for James to overcome in the last two elections, but with the ascension of John Cummins and the Conservatives, a new fissure has developed that looks poised to end a decade of Liberal rule. In fact, the upstart Conservatives were the choice of 22 per cent of voters in the Forum Research poll, which would translate into seven seats and a toehold in the legislature.
That kind of support is not only likely to spell NDP victory in 2013, but with two viable right-of-centre parties splitting the vote going forward, it could keep the New Democrats in power for the foreseeable future.
Once in power, ousting Dix would likely require a merger of the right, one of those parties to fall into oblivion or the NDP to colossally screw up, all of which are decent possibilities, but could take a decade or so to happen.
For now, all the new leader of the NDP needs to do is maintain the party's traditional support and patiently wait for the next 15 months to play out.