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Conservatives are openly criticizing their party's direction, with Tom Flanagan cautioning that fundraising may dry up and Monte Solberg - who through the end of '08 was basically a spokesman for the party - wondering aloud what they're fighting for.

New Democrats, the chance of a role in government yanked away from them, are struggling badly to readjust to life as a third or fourth party without any real shot at power ( Brian Topp notwithstanding).

And suddenly the Liberals - the party repeatedly described as being in "existential crisis" up until two months ago, and in the midst of a downward spiral that could fulfill Stephen Harper's dream of destroying them altogether - are back to being Canada's most stable and self-assured national party.

Chalk that up in part to brand strength; in part to dumb luck; in part to the very favourable contrast between Michael Ignatieff and Stephane Dion. But chalk it up most of all to the joys of institutional pragmatism.

When your raison d'etre is power, and interal debates over what you actually want to do with that power come second, it's absolutely amazing what a strong new leader and faltering opponents can do for your sense of self.

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