The rumours about Christy Clark's imminent political death have been -- and continue to be --greatly exaggerated.
Clark became leader of the B.C. Liberal Party and then premier last year with the support of just one of the 47 member Liberal caucus.
Many of the cabinet minister heavyweights, including Prince George area MLAs Pat Bell and Shirley Bond, lined up behind Kevin Falcon.
Despite her solid Liberal credentials and her senior role in Gordon Campbell's cabinet before she departed politics for parenthood and radio in 2004, Clark was able to play the outsider card in the leadership race against longtime Campbell stalwarts Falcon, George Abbott and Mike de Jong.
She campaigned hard among card carrying Liberals around the province, convincing them that she was better positioned than Campbell's boys to turn the page on the hated Harmonized Sales Tax and the rest of the Campbell-era miscues.
Despite the fact that nobody wanted her in the room except for backbencher Harry Bloy, Clark stepped in as the new leader of the Liberal caucus, keeping Falcon and Abbott in senior roles, while asking Bell, Bond, de Jong and others to take on more responsibility.
Clark's continuous efforts to hold this group together, particularly at the cabinet level, paid off and the mass defections didn't come until this week with the departure of Falcon, Abbott, John Les and Mary McNeil. They join a host of others who announced earlier this summer that they wouldn't be seeking reelection.
The timing has nothing to do with Clark and everything to do with party politics. With the Liberal convention coming in October, the party needs to do some recruiting and new faces need to be unveiled to win riding nominations.
Falcon and Abbott not running again will hurt Clark but not too much, particularly in Abbott's Shuswap riding, which leans firmly to the right. A reputable Liberal candidate there shouldn't have too much of a problem keeping that riding.
Far too much has been made about these departures and their significance. Somehow, Campbell kept his seat in the premier's office, despite the departures during his reign of high-fliers like Gary Collins, Carole Taylor, Geoff Plant... and Christy Clark.
Clark's caucus remains deep with talent and there are more Bells and Bonds standing by their leader than Falcons and Abbotts making their way to the exits.
Furthermore, the arrival of Jim Shepard in Prince George on Thursday and his unveiling of the Concerned Citizens For British Columbia offers a glimpse into Clark's election strategy.
Shepard, the retired CEO of Finning and Canfor, who served for a year in the premier's office for the princely fee of $1, will be rallying business and civic leaders across the province with a simple choice.
If you don't throw your money and your vote behind Clark, then you might as well support the NDP, because that's who will govern for the next four or five years.
Like similar political advocacy groups in the U.S., Shepard's Concerned Citizens will spend money and time in attack mode, nipping at NDP leader Adrian Nix's heels.
With the Concerned Citizens hard at work, Clark will be free to take a more statesman role in the election, focusing on the simple message of her leadership and her free-enterprise vision. Dix, meanwhile, will have the much more difficult job of playing both defence against the Concerned Citizens, while also simultaneously attacking Clark.
This exact same tactic worked well for Stephen Harper and it's no accident that Clark has courted some of Harper's team to work for her.
And don't believe a word of the opinion polls.
In the months leading up to the election, voters express their dissatisfaction with the government of the day to pollsters. It's a powerful way to put the ruling party on notice that more is expected.
Then, on election day, even if those same voters are still somewhat dissatisfied with the premier, they will still vote for the Liberals because the NDP alternative isn't so attractive when the price is an X on a ballot and a five-year lease on the reins of power.
Clark's hardly done.
In fact, she's just getting started.
Shepard's mission should make that loud and clear.