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Simon was out early as the battle began in Fine Gael ... we're still waiting for Leo

Day one.

8805 Simon Coveney_90512122 Source: Rollingnews.ie

DAY ONE OF the Fine Gael leadership contest began outside the party headquarters on Upper Mount Street, with the unveiling of two very slick-looking campaign posters of Simon Coveney.

One poster shows the light side of Simon – all smiles, while the second poster shows serious Simon, deep in thought.

The two posters flanked his team of supporters on the steps as he delivered his pitch on why he should be the next leader of Fine Gael and the next Taoiseach.

“Fine Gael has to be and will always be, if I’m leader, a party who represents everybody,” the Cork TD insisted.

Whether you are somebody unfortunately who slept on the streets last night or whether you are someone who is living in a mansion, we need to be a party that celebrates and supports success and not apologise for that – but also be a party that reaches out and supports vulnerable people.

Coveney said he wants to be the man to unite the country, and had plenty to say about his ambitions for his party at today’s event (although it’s perhaps unlikely that any political organisation could draw votes from demographics as diverse as somebody ‘who slept on the street’ and someone ‘living in a mansion’).

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

‘The Big Mo’

So far, momentum is with Leo Varadkar.

The parliamentary party – TDs, senators and MEPs – has 65% of the voting power in the leadership contest.

The Varadkar campaign trumpeted endorsements from a range of senators and Dáil members today – to open up a clear lead over Coveney.

However, the ‘leading man’ was entirely absent from today’s proceedings.

Instead, his campaign highlighted the volume of Oireachtas members who had come out to support him – the senators and TDs were wheeled out in not one, but two press conferences today.

Some political observers have wondered whether Coveney has the charisma to be an effective leader – and the ‘x-factor’ question was asked at his morning event today.

With a smile, he replied:

“That depends on what you describe as the x-factor… For me it’s about honest, strong, delivery.

I don’t think that a family living in a hotel room this evening is looking for a Taoiseach with x-factor. They are looking for a Taoiseach who’ll solve their problems.

9065 Leo Supporters_90512183 TDs declare their support for Leo Varadkar today. Source: Sam Boal

It’s been said before – that while Coveney is the workhorse, Leo Varadkar is the show pony.

Coveney said today he wanted an honest, clean contest with no negative campaigning. But he did say:

I am not about a glib soundbite or a clever put down, I am about actually changing things for real.

‘Team Leo’, however, disputed any assertions that the Dublin TD hasn’t achieved very much in his ministerial roles.

Leo’s ‘the best man for the job’ the group of Fine Gael senators said this morning – without giving much more detail as to why, but insisting he would boost the fortunes of the party.

Talk around Leinster House, even from those not in the Fine Gael party, was focused on the contest.

The likes of Solidarity-PBP’s Richard Boyd Barrett said it shouldn’t be a distraction, but it certainly appears to be – particularly for those in government.

With their minds on other things, government members failed to turn up to vote on a Labour motion on delaying the sale of AIB shares resulting in it passing (see above).

There really was only one show in town today – the Leo and Simon show.

And while the Varadkar camp has the edge – how it will all end is anyone’s guess.

Coveney’s team said it was happy with how day one had gone down. Varadkar, meanwhile, is expected to show up in person tomorrow to lay out his grand plan.

“We have put in the groundwork weeks ago, we have this,” a ‘Leo’ person insisted earlier.

But the Coveney team were just as ebullient. ”We are going to win, there is no doubt about it,” one supporter said.

Either way, the country will have a new Fine Gael leader – and shortly afterwards, a new Taoiseach – early next month.

Read: The man who would be king – is Simon Coveney on a well-worn path to Taoiseach?>

Liveblog: “For most people, he was a very bad Taoiseach”>

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