And so is his reputation for eliminating the competition. But not necessarily the competition from the other parties. He has Guy Giorno to do that. I'm talking about the competition from within his own caucus.
In a recent column James Travers refers to them as "crash test dummies".
What do Jim Prentice, Peter MacKay, Jim Flaherty, Tony Clement and Stockwell Day have in common?
They all challenged Harper's leadership.
But what else?
They were all left holding the bag when the you know what hit the fan. Travers only mentions two:
Tony Clement is just the latest to hit the wall in the Prime Minister’s place. Scan this summer’s scathing headlines and find the industry minister absorbing the twin shocks of runaway summit spending and public outrage over the willful destruction of the census. Before Clement it was poor Jim Prentice. Once seen as a potential and more progressive Harper successor, the environment minister is now wandering lost in the badlands that lie between international pressure for Canada to finally get serious about climate change and the domestic priority of protecting the oil sands.
Now with Flaherty things are a little different. Like Harper when he's questioned on the economy, like the sub-prime mortgages he bought on behalf of the Canadian taxpayer, he doesn't answer to us. He doesn't answer to anyone. He grins and changes the subject.
But he has friends in high places, like Nicole Eaton who tried to have Harper ousted two months before the 2006 election call. And Charles McVety, who has more power than most of the elected officials.
But then Flaherty never openly ran against Harper for the party leadership ... yet!
Peter MacKay hasn't really either. He planned on it but Harper bought him off by having someone pay off his 1/2 million dollars in debt. We still don't know who it was and Harper claims that we don't need to know. But it's always been understood that MacKay would probably be the next party leader. That was before Harper made him wear the Afghan Detainee scandal.
Jim Prentice was vying for the leadership and his name has been tossed around to succeed Harper. But that was before he was made to wear the climate change mess.
Then there's Tony Clement. While Nicole Eaton was pushing Flaherty, Mike Harris had Clement all polished up and ready to go. That was before Harper made him wear the census debacle.
And finally poor old Stockwell Day. The Alliance leadership got pretty ugly but some believe that Day may have given it one more kick at the can. But that was before Harper made him wear the "build it and they will come" prison nonsense.
Harper has closed in his little circle of allies, and in a bunker mentality, everyone outside that circle is the enemy. And he will not be taken alive.