While Joe Francis is a possible challenger to Liza Harvey for the leadership of the WA Liberals, she is still considered Colin Barnett’s likely successor.
Mr Barnett, 66, who was premier for eight-and-a-half years, told reporters last week he would quietly slink to the backbench if he didn’t win a third term.
Mr Francis, the former corrective services minister, is expected to put his hand up but he first has to win his seat of Jandakot, which is too close to call.
Insiders believe Mr Francis, a tattooed former submariner, can be the “attack dog” to take on new premier Mark McGowan, who is showing more pluck than he used to.
Ms Harvey, on the other hand, is not seen as being feisty enough.
Some believe her closeness to Mr Barnett may play against her, saying she looked puppy-like following him around during their election campaign and was too surprised by Labor’s devastation at the polls, which signs had pointed to.
But then again, her colleagues have been primed for her take over – as Mr Barnett’s deputy she’s been widely perceived as his heir apparent.
Former treasurer Mike Nahan is internally well regarded but it’s understood he’s not interested in leading while ex-bank executive and transport minister Dean Nalder has lost his leadership ambitions at least for now.
With the Liberal party team more than halved in the election, going from 31 to an expected 13, any factionalism among those who remain may not gain much traction before they must decide.
In any event, most are too shell-shocked from the massive defeat and the loss of colleagues and staff and are not even sure where the alliances of some of the remaining fellow Liberals lie.
There will be a lot of soul searching after the failure, with many questioning the wisdom of the controversial and ultimately doomed preference swap deal with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party.
There was also the “it’s time” factor, with Mr Barnett saying the longevity of his government was a key issue but insiders criticised him for not stepping down last year when it was clear his “brand” had gone and clumsy moves to oust him failed.
Senator Hanson squarely blamed Mr Barnett’s unpopularity on the preference deal backfiring so spectacularly.
One internal source said it was unlikely the former premier would even return to parliament as sitting on the backbench in opposition would be too much of a come-down.