Should we be feeling sorry for Tony Abbott?
IT IS hard not to feel just a little sorry for Tony Abbott, wherever your political allegiances lie.
In a few short weeks the Opposition Leader's world has been turned on its head.
Cast your mind back to June 26, the day Prime Minister Kevin Rudd resumed the Labor leadership.
According to opinion poll aggregate Bludger Track, that morning the Coalition was heading for a 6.9% national swing towards it.
Also that morning, Independent MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott announced their retirements from politics.
Assuming their seats will be won by the Nationals, the Coalition was forecast to win 106 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives, the biggest Federal landslide since 1975.
Abbott had the luxury of being just one of the two opposition leaders facing Prime Minister Julia Gillard, as Rudd's supporters launched an open revolt on Labor's back bench. Gillard had announced that September 14 would be the election date.
Abbott knew the carbon tax, asylum seeker boats and government debt were all millstones around Gillard's neck.
He could be forgiven for practising his victory speech, knowing exactly when he would be giving it.
And then Kevin Rudd came and ruined it all.
Excluding one-off poll movements that were later shown to be statistical outliers, the improvement in Labor's position since Rudd's return is the biggest immediate shift in Newspoll history.
Not only has it finally drawn a line through Labor's leadership soap opera, but he's moved quickly to at least look like he's doing something about the Government's big policy dilemmas.
Earlier this week Rudd announced they are 'terminating the carbon tax'. Never mind that the policy amounts to shuffling around a few billion dollars to bring forward a market-based carbon price, or ETS, by a single year.
In reality the change is minor - more a term limit than a termination - but it still has the Coalition flailing around for a plan B.
Abbott even flirted with outright climate change denial on Monday, dismissing an ETS as a "so-called market" for an "invisible substance".
Rudd is also expected to announce some movements on refugee policy within the next couple of days, including a 'review' of the UN Refugee Convention.
Again, any changes are likely to be mainly cosmetic as there's not really much further that either major party can lurch to the right on asylum seekers.
Rudd only needs to announce something that sounds like it might work, however, to blunt yet another of Abbott's major weapons ahead of the election.
All this might explain why Abbott's demands for Rudd to call the election have suddenly gone a bit quiet.
The Coalition would probably be very happy right now to return to Parliament in August and buy some more time for the Rudd honeymoon to wear off.