Ignore the political "experts" in today's papers who say Kevin Rudd cannot make a comeback. As Lazarus himself, John Howard, explained on Sky TV yesterday morning, it's all about arithmetic.
Or, as others have put it, it's all about ministers hanging on to those big white cars.
If the numbers keep telling Labor MPs they can hold onto government (or their seats) with Rudd as leader, then the party's powerbrokers will eventually be flattened in the stampede. And right now the numbers do show that.
According to the ABC's election expert, Antony Green, Labor would lose half its caucus, or 35 seats, if it were to go to the next election with Gillard polling as she is. If, on the other hand, Rudd returned as leader, and could deliver the sort of numbers he gets in today's Nielsen poll, Labor would retain those 35 seats and pull in several more.
Blogger Ben Raue from The Tally Room reckons Labor would lose 37 seats with Gillard and gain 9 if Rudd could deliver, that is, if current polling was to be reflected at an election.
"My personal view is that Gillard will not lead Labor to the next election," Green told The Power Index this morning, "but I don't think she'll go quickly. They'll leave her to take all the tough decisions, then bring in a saviour next year".
So it won't be Kevin '11, but it might be Kevin '12.
Of course there are huge obstacles to a Rudd return, but they're less to do with whether he could deliver votes than they are with his unpopularity among MPs and the threat he poses to the party's powerbrokers.
The factional bosses who got rid of him in June 2010—like Bill Shorten, Mark Arbib, Don Farrell and David Feeney—would be first in the firing line if he came back. But the factions themselves would also see their power diminished.
Rudd was famous for picking his Cabinet without any factional input and has since accused "right-wing factional thugs" of wrecking the party. So they're bound to resist his return. Indeed, their worst nightmare would be that he came back and won, then turned on them and reformed the Labor Party.
But if the voters keep saying they prefer Rudd to Gillard (and anyone else), The Power Index reckons Rudd will get back. Labor's No. 1 problem with the electorate is that no one trusts the party because it got rid of an elected prime minister.
Bring Rudd back—by popular demand—and you solve that at a stroke.