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Recruiting Eve Adams looked like an inexplicable plan for Justin Trudeau's Liberals in February, when the party held a marginal lead in the polls. By the time Sunday's nomination meeting was over, it seemed like self-harm.

The Liberals of Eglinton-Lawrence rebuffed Ms. Adams's bid to run for the party there, and at least symbolically, they rebuked Mr. Trudeau. This comes at a time when the Liberals, down in the polls, already seem to be sliding, and in a way that raises questions about Mr. Trudeau's judgment.

The consolation for Mr. Trudeau is that in theory, at least, the Eve Adams drama is done and dusted and he doesn't need to talk about her anymore – and that the winning nominee, lawyer Marco Mendicino, now boasts a lively organization in addition to local roots and probably has a better shot at knocking off Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver, the riding's MP.

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But maybe there's still more of the Eve Adams saga to come. And the problem is that Sunday night's outcome just underlines the question that has lingered since Mr. Trudeau welcomed her to the party in February: What was he thinking?

It's tempting, if you are the third party, to seize an opportunity to spread the idea that an MP has left the governing party for yours. Ms. Adams obliged, back in February, by trumpeting Mr. Trudeau over Mr. Harper. "I want to work with someone who inspires, not with fear-mongers and bullies," she said then.

Even so, it was always poor symbolism for Mr. Trudeau. Ms. Adams was already being pushed out of the Conservative Party. She was a Mississauga MP who had sought a safer Tory seat in Oakville, but was bounced out by the party over heavy-handed tactics and the improper interference of her fiancé, Dimitri Soudas, then the executive director of the Conservative Party.

Ms. Adams' floor-crossing only heightened her image as the poster child for self-interested political opportunism. Yet for some reason Mr. Trudeau, who is supposedly running on a new kind of politics that rejects cynical campaign tactics, decided he should buy her brand.

There have been whispers that perhaps Mr. Trudeau and his entourage embraced Ms. Adams to gain access to the secrets of Mr. Soudas, a former aide and longtime confidante of Mr. Harper. It was easy to believe that Mr. Soudas, known as one of the PM's hardball operatives, might know where some bodies are buried, figuratively speaking. If so, they'd have to be valuable secrets to make the episode worthwhile – and such an arrangement is not something that could be aired in public.

Then there's the embarrassment of having the whole thing kicked back up by Liberal Party members in Eglinton-Lawrence. To his credit, Mr. Trudeau allowed a competitive nomination, as he promised. But he rashly touted a floor-crosser with a plan to run for a contested nomination in Eglinton-Lawrence, without knowing the intricacies of the riding.

It's a riding that has been the scene of epic Liberal nomination battles. There are local party players, like former MP Joe Volpe and current MPP Mike Colle, who can exert influence if they are not brought onside. Obviously, Mr. Colle wasn't: He immediately declared that Ms. Adams would only be the nominee over his dead body.

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Ms. Adams did give it a serious shot. She had some veteran Liberal organizers like campaign manager Tom Allison on her team, and her campaign signed up 2,800 party members to Mr. Mendicino's 1,800, but didn't get as many to Sunday's meeting. It was obviously easier to motivate those who were against her. The outcome sends a message that Mr. Trudeau misjudged his own party.

Is it over? Ms. Adams hinted she's not done with politics. One Liberal speculated she could still run for another Liberal nomination, perhaps in Hamilton, where she grew up. Floor-crossers expect to get a chance to run for their new party.

It's just one riding and one nomination. But it comes at a bad time, when Mr. Trudeau is trying to recover from a slide in popularity. And it fuels a damaging narrative, which the Conservatives have relentlessly seeded with ads, that he's callow and unqualified, by sowing doubts about his judgment.

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