I think that Shigeru Ishiba is the most natural choice, given his national appeal as an honest broker, defense and agriculture creds, and a moderate/progressive outlook that will not alienate the urban floaters. And he gets to keep Aso’s Akiba crowd. Okay, he’s a little weird, but he's relatively youthful, projects sincerity, qualities that the LDP desperately needs. I’d say Nobuteru Ishihara is highly unlikely to emerge on top, though he will have obvious uses as a babyface. I expect Yoichi Masuzoe to be given a very prominent role, given the need to win the 2010 House of Councilors election. Ichita Yamamoto, another articulate middle-of-the-road HOC member, will also be promoted, at least in the media. Oh, and I think Yasufumi Tanahashi is the favorite to emerge as the U-50 leader, though I see him as more an operator than public face.It’s my response to an inquiry from a colleague, edited for public consumption. If I’m spot on—something that I’m not too good at—the public face of the LDP will have a geographically balanced rural/provincial/urban profile with a surprisingly moderate/progressive profile. I say “surprisingly” because some experts see a rural, conservative shift, given the drubbing in the metropolitan centers and among the Koizumi Kids.
Let me just add that many LDP elders are returning, and the ones that made it back on the SMD ticket need to be watched to see if they try to reassert their authority. Fat chance, you might think, but I suspect that Yoshiro Mori in particularly will have a hard time stepping aside gracefully.