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What a stroke of luck for Justin Trudeau: Canadians think the world is going to heck in a handbasket.

Maybe it didn’t feel like good fortune to the Prime Minister when U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to lay waste to Canada’ economy, or Saudi Arabia yanked students from Canadian universities because of a tweet.

But it probably helps Mr. Trudeau’s re-election hopes when Canadians feel queasy about the world, especially when they think things are going better at home. That’s often good for the incumbent PM.

It’s no surprise many Canadians feel the world is a mess, with the news full of trade wars, Brexit, Saudi Arabian hit squads, hyper-partisan U.S. politics and accounts of Mr. Trump running the world’s biggest superpower with erratic urges and itchy Twitter fingers.

A recent Abacus Data poll found 72 per cent of Canadian think things are on the wrong track in the U.S., and 59 per cent think the world is on the wrong track, too. Only 14 per cent think things are going in the right direction in the U.S.; 17 per cent are positive about the direction of the world.

Most aren’t as pessimistic about Canada. Only 34 per cent think things are on the wrong track, while 41 per cent think they are going in the right direction, and 26 per cent are unsure.

Those numbers certainly don’t suggest Canadians are euphoric about the state of their country. And David Coletto, the CEO of Abacus Data, noted that they are influenced by partisanship. Liberals are more likely to think things at home are going in the right direction than Conservatives. But even Conservatives are more upbeat about how Canada is faring than they are about how things are going in the U.S. or in the world.

So if Mr. Trudeau wants to argue that things are going worse in the rest of the world, he’ll find most Canadians are already convinced. It also helps him that when Canadians want a leader to protect to them from global dangers, incumbent prime ministers typically have a home-turf advantage.

The financial crisis of 2008 rocked the global economy and set the world in a painful period of recession and slow growth, but that actually helped then-PM Stephen Harper, who campaign by telling Canadians to trust his experienced hand. In the 2011 election campaign, he warned the Liberals might form a shaky coalition, then held back New Democrat leader Jack Layton’s orange wave by warning Ontarians against electing the NDP in delicate economic times.

Mr. Trudeau doesn’t have Mr. Harper’s father-knows-best persona. But it is Mr. Trudeau who has experience now. He is seen with world leaders. His two major opponents, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, are both younger. Neither has ever been in a cabinet post.

Mr. Trudeau can claim he, at least, avoided disaster in renegotiating NAFTA. He can travel the world claiming to diversify trade. He can embrace diversity in contrast to Mr. Trump’s divisiveness.

That doesn’t mean opponents cannot win. But they will have to try to chip away his incumbent’s advantages.

Pessimism about the way the world is headed suggests Canadians fret about what might come next – whether it’s recession, or conflict, or climate disaster.

The Conservatives criticize Liberal budget deficits as a lack of fiscal discipline, but they might be more effective in warning Mr. Trudeau has left the country woefully unprepared for recession. Or that he’s not ready for the new security needs of a changing world. Canadians seem primed to worry about the dangers of the world, so Mr. Trudeau’s opponents will want to portray the Liberals as unprepared.

And they want to chip away at an incumbent PM’s chief advantage – looking prime ministerial. Mr. Coletto noted the most visible recent dip in Mr. Trudeau’s popularity came during his gaffe-filled trip to India, which made Canadians question his ability to deal competently with the world.

If Mr. Trudeau’s opponents don’t dent the incumbent’s aura, or find ways to convince Canadians he’s not protecting them from a messy world, Mr. Trudeau should be able to ride his luck to re-election.

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