Credits: Corey Wilkinson/QMI Agency
OTTAWA - I was worried for Justin Trudeau's physical safety in the first few minutes of his boxing match with Sen. Patrick Brazeau last March.
Brazeau -- stocky, muscular and powerful-looking -- had literally burst out of his corner when the bell rang and started pummelling Trudeau's willowy frame.
But, to the surprise of many, Trudeau withstood the initial onslaught and, using his own intelligence and patience and relying on the wisdom of those who had trained him to box, he fought his way to victory by dint of a technical knockout.
The headlines the next day were variations of "Trudeau Scores Stunning Upset!"
And yet it wasn't such a stunning upset to Trudeau or those who know him well. He knew precisely what he was doing in the ring. He kept his head through the first onslaught and then stuck to his game plan. The end result: victory.
You can likely see where I'm going with this column as we reflect on the latest debate in the Liberal leadership race, held Saturday in Mississauga, Ont.
Though Marc Garneau, Liberal MP and the country's first astronaut is no Patrick Brazeau - that, as it turns out, appears to be very good thing - Garneau did come flying out of the gate when the bell rang and threw a flurry of verbal jousts at Trudeau. Trudeau, who could see that this was coming after Garneau held a Parliament Hill news conference a few days earlier to attack Trudeau for being little more a pretty face with a famous name, held his ground and gave it back to Garneau.
Sure, Garneau may have more so-called "executive" experience, but Trudeau has two wins in two general elections in his riding of Papineau and had to win a tough nomination battle to do that. Garneau failed in his first attempt to become an MP, was then handed the nomination to a safe Liberal seat and is now two for three in general elections.
Garneau and Trudeau had only five minutes on Saturday for a one-on-one tussle but, just as he did with Brazeau, Trudeau was ready and withstood the barrage.
Then, towards the end of the two-hour event, Martha Hall Findlay tried to have a go at Trudeau and she went about it as clumsily as Brazeau did last March, trying to suggest Trudeau's class and privilege disqualified him from becoming Liberal leader. She was booed by the audience at the debate and on Sunday, issued an apology and clarification.
Trudeau, nonetheless, was prepared for what Hall Findlay had to throw at him and easily turning away her awkward jabs.
Just as he did with his boxing coach, so too has Trudeau listened to and acted on the advice of his team of advisors. Many politicians have advisors but not all actually listen to their advice. That Trudeau has the humility and wisdom to listen to his advisors is to his credit.
Now, forgive me the switch from using boxing metaphors to race car metaphors, but at the end of Saturday's event, the Liberal leadership had taken a sharp turn. Garneau, MP Joyce Murray and Trudeau successfully negotiated that turn but the rest either veered off the road and crashed - that would be Hall Findlay and possibly George Takach - or simply don't have the horsepower and the pit crew to keep up.
Liberals who do not want Trudeau to cross the finish line must quickly decide if Garneau or Murray can be the "anyone-but-Trudeau" candidate. Trudeau's advisors - he's got many smart ones - will remind him that he will do best so long as neither Garneau nor Murray can establish their claim as the one true alternative to his candidacy.
For the next several days, it will be that battle - Garneau versus Murray - that will be the most interesting.