It’s no secret that Lars Løkke Rasmussen (V) is among parliament’s most down-to-earth personalities. Whether it’s the impression of those who have met the former PM in public and report feeling at ease in his company, or whether it’s the urban legend that he – while serving as health minister – ate his lunches at a hotdog cart while smoking a cigarette, the general consensus is that despite rising to the zenith of political power in this country, ‘little Lars from Græsted’ has kept his feet planted solidly on the ground.
That image has – both literally and figuratively – suffered immensely in the past two weeks. But those ready to write off Rasmussen’s political future may want to hang on a moment.
It’s true that successive polls released while the criticism of Rasmussen’s first-class travel was at its loudest showed that his support had clearly weakened. But the first thing to bear in mind about this is that there are still two years until the next election must be held – plenty of time for him to reconnect with voters. The second thing to keep in mind is that if there is a politician who knows how to reconnect, it is the folksy Rasmussen.
If past scandals involving him are anything to go by, this won’t take long. In contrast to his predecessor, the strait-laced (some would say uptight) Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Lars Løkke Rasmussen thrives on the image of a garrulous, back-slapping pal. His outgoing nature might land him on the front pages of the tabloids, but when it comes down to politics he’s all business.
What Rasmussen’s opponents should be concerned about is that this – like most of the scandals in his wake – involve the sorts of offences most people can relate to (and have probably committed themselves in some form or other): drinking too much at a public event, charging too much on the company tab or taking family members along on official travel.
Faced with the current ‘travelgate’ scandal, Rasmussen has again sought to give the impression that he just somehow got caught up in a situation that was beyond his control. Despite the million kroner price tag of his recent gaffe, it’s a strategy that is bound to play well with the average voter – even if the ‘experts’ say it raises significant questions about his ability to run a government.
Despite Rasmussen’s falling support in the polls, many of those questioned after his marathon press conference on Sunday said he had represented himself well. Political analysts were divided on whether the decision to sit and answer questions for 212 minutes was an act of madness or genius. Their verdict, however, was universal: he has a long climb back, but he is on the way back up. By 2015, expect him to have climbed all the way back to the door of the Prime Minister’s Office.