Lisa Merrtihew is a largely unknown quantity to New Brunswickers. Those that do know her will primarily know her as either Gerry Merrithew's daughter or Peter MacKay's (ex)girlfriend.
A Google search revealed only 856 results, of the top 10, five were about her relationship with Peter MacKay, three referred to her recent appointment and role as a Senior VP with PR giant Fleishman-Hillard, one was an earlier post I wrote about her potential as a leadership candidate and one was her Wikipedia article.
Though 856 results may seem low, her likely leadership opponents do about the same, though with more relevant hits (I doubt the facination with her relationship with Peter MacKay is something she would want to consume 50% of the ink used to write about her).
Here are the results of some of her possible competition: Trevor Holder (865), Margaret-Ann Blaney (795), Brad Green (761), Jody Carr (654), Madeliene Dubé (280).
However, many Tories I have spoken too are blown away with excitement when they hear of her as a possible leadership candidate, especially when compared to the other candidates.
Of those I mention above, she is the only one who is fluently bilingual. She also has a background in public relations, giving her lots of training to be effective in developing a message that ressonates with people.
In early 2006, she joined Bernard Lord's office to take over the messaging and strategy of his premiership. Though she didn't manage to prevent Lord from losing, she allowed him to carry the day in the messaging surrounding the procedural battle in the legislature, despite the fact that procedural experts like Robert Marleau and C.E.S. Franks will tell you that the Liberals were in the right. At the same time, for the first time in three years, the Tories took the lead in opinion polls and went on to win the popular vote on election day.
This cannot all be attributed to Merrithew, obviously, but there was a marked change in attitude from the premier and his government that coincided with her arrival and led to an improved public standing.
Whether or not she would be a candidate however is no sure thing. In March, she accepted a job in Toronto that I expect pays very, very well. Would an uncertain leadership race that, if successful, would be followed by an uncertain future as party leader attract her?
If she were to win, how would she enter the legislature? The only remaining Saint John area seats are those of Trevor Holder (who I doubt would want to step aside) and Margaret-Ann Blaney. Neither seat would be a sure bet to win and the occupant would have to be willing to step aside permanently as her father's old domain of Saint John East has become a left wing bastion which the Tories have only won once in the past 25 years and then with only 36% of the vote in a three-way race in the huge sweep of 1999. The Tories placed third in their attempt to retain it in 2003.
The Tories better start lobbying hard; as I look at the possibilities she seems to be the only one that could even make the 2010 election a competion, otherwise it would be a Liberal recoronation. Quite a rise from being mostly notable until 2006, and still today according to Google, as MacKay's pre-Belinda belle.