Australian politicians rarely make a splash in America. But Prime Minister Julia Gillard managed to do just that, thanks to a 15-minute YouTube video that went viral last October.
The video -- which has racked up over two million views -- showed Gillard on the floor of parliament, delivering what Time magazine called "one of the most scathing takedowns in parliamentary history." For a quarter-hour Gillard dressed down Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. "I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man," Gillard snapped. "If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn't need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror."
Americans, more accustomed to the snoozy proceedings of Capitol Hill, found Gillard's take-down riveting. A "stern drubbing," Business Insider announced, telling readers the speech was "certainly not like anything you'd see in U.S. politics." Salon sighed, "If only the U.S. could borrow Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to take on Congress's misogynist caucus."
But as Barack Obama can attest, a leader's popularity abroad does not always reflect her situation at home. Though she got a bump in the polls after her speech, her Australian Labor Party still lagged behind Abbott's Coalition. And today, with the federal election half a year away, the embattled leader faces a three-front fight. Before Gillard faces Abbott in September, she first must survive her own allies.
Julia Gillard's government has always been in a precarious political position. As Deputy Prime Minister, she helped orchestrate a late-night coup to oust Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd a scant two months before the 2010 federal election. That election was achingly close, resulting in Australia's first hung parliament since 1940. Gillard retained power only by aligning with the Green Party and picking up the support of a few independents.
Today, Gillard is under fire from the Opposition, from the Greens, and from her own Labor Party. Following her scathing take-down of Tony Abbott in parliament, Gillard zoomed to a 14-point lead over Abbott in polls asking who would make the better prime minister. Six months later, she lags four points behind him. Meanwhile her party is doing even worse: were the election held today, Abbott's Coalition would top Labor 56-44 percent.
The election, however, is not until September 14. The question Australians are now asking: Will her government last that long?
Former allies are not making it easy. The Greens, who have governed with Labor since the 2010 elections, dissolved their alliance last week. While pledging to continue informal support to keep the government from collapsing before the election, Green leader Christine Milne declared, "Trust has gone."
With confidence in the Gillard Government wavering, rumors are swirling that Gillard may be overthrown by her own party, just as she ousted Rudd three years ago. So limited is the leadership of the current Labor Party that the name floated to replace her is... Kevin Rudd.
This would not be the first time Rudd attempted to get his old job back. In early 2012, he challenged Gillard for the leadership. This prompted fellow Labor Party members to openly criticize Rudd's time as prime minister, calling him "dysfunctional" and a "psychopath with a giant ego." Gillard defeated him soundly.
A year later, though, the Australian press has begun speculating about another leadership challenge. That Rudd remains unpopular only underlines Gillard's own weakness as prime minister.
Like Lyndon Johnson in 1968, Gillard finds herself pinned from three sides. Johnson faced Richard Nixon, the New Left student movement, and anti-war politicians in his own party. That three-front war led to his stunning decision not to run for re-election.
Gillard, unlike Johnson, won't go down without a fight. But her odds of remaining in power look as bleak as Johnson's did in the spring of 1968. She may make it to September, but her chances of remaining in office after the elections are vanishingly small.
Americans may only know Gillard as the forceful prime minister who thrashed Abbott in parliament, but Abbott is likely to emerge the final victor.