The New Democratic Party will watch the race for the Liberal leadership with anxiety since a large part of its current popular support rests on antipathy toward Gordon Campbell.
NDP strategists had grown increasingly confident in recent months about their chances of winning an election if Campbell remained premier.
The last opinion poll conducted before Campbell announced his resignation plan showed his personal popularity rating at an unprecedented nine per cent, largely due to his handling of the HST.
However, the same Angus Reid poll found NDP Leader Carole James scoring only a middling 27 per cent personal approval rating. The poll's analysis said James was not fully capitalizing on Campbell's misfortunes.
James said Wednesday: "I've said all along I expected the premier would step down. I don't think it was any surprise that Mr. Campbell was going to step out before the next election."
It did not matter who became premier, James said. "The B.C. Liberal record speaks for itself," she said. "I have no doubt they're out there looking for someone from the outside to change things. It doesn't change the record."
James is counting on chaos, division and arguments in the Liberal leadership race.
University of British Columbia-based political scientist Allan Tupper said Campbell's move will change how people view James, and put her under increased scrutiny.
"I've never been convinced of NDP-style parties who become sort of right-wing populist about tax revolts. They just don't do that thing very well."
James's own leadership problems she expelled MLA Bob Simpson who was critical of her, then lost her caucus chairmain, Norm Macdonald, over her handling of the issue are also in play, he said.
Asked last month if she thought there was an effort from within the party to force her out of the leader's chair, she said: "I think there's always efforts to force every leader out."
She added: "When you're leader of a political party you always have people who are thinking they can do a better job or they have a different kind of direction to go."
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