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Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is photographed meeting with the Globe's editorial board on Oct. 3, 2012.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau has "the ingredients" needed to help propel his party to an election win, former prime minister Brian Mulroney says.

Mr. Trudeau formally launched his leadership bid on Tuesday night at an upbeat press conference in his Papineau riding in Montreal. He's the first star candidate in a race many Liberals hope will signal a turning point in the party's fortunes after a devastating showing in last year's federal election.

The 40-year-old politician is already a polarizing figure for the party, simultaneously inspiring a rockstar-like idolization and criticism that he lacks the political acumen required to take the party forward. And as the son of former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, he's both helped and hindered by his father's political legacy.

Speaking to the Globe and Mail's editorial board on Wednesday, Mr. Mulroney said he believes Mr. Trudeau is a strong candidate who shouldn't be underestimated. "He's a fine young man, he's going to do well," he said. "And I'll tell you: People who underestimate him, they do so at their own peril."

He said he considered Mr. Trudeau's father to be a "very tough, able man," adding, "You know, the apple sometimes doesn't fall far from the tree. He certainly has some of the grit of his dad, and he's obviously got, as well, he obviously has some of the qualities required to win an election."

He said he believes Mr. Trudeau is smart and capable of being both a good listener and speaker. His fluency in French and English, his appearance, and the fact that he's fought and won two elections already are also helpful, Mr. Mulroney said.

He called the Liberals a "much diminished institution," and suggested the party will have its work cut out for it in trying to rebuild.

"If you want to do something for your country [and] you want to do something for your party you have to try and win," he said. "He's got the ingredients that could – who knows – make him a winner."

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