While one would assume that this would come as good news to separatists, a closer look indicates that they've got a lot to worry about.
The Parti Quebecois lead the Liberals 37% to 33%, a margin that is incredibly close considering how unpopular the Liberals are, if we are to believe the Press.
Amazingly, while Mr. Charest's personal popularity is at it's lowest historical level, the Liberals are trailing the PQ by a scant four percentage points.
It's hard to believe that the Liberals can sink any lower and if this is the bottom, it doesn't look so bad. Given the Liberal party's sad performance, the PQ should be sitting somewhere between 50% and 60%, but they are not.
The PQ militant wing and a compliant 'Clique du Plateau' (my new favourite phrase to describe Quebec's separatist Press) have been selling the fiction that it is Madame Marois' personal unpopularity that is holding the PQ back. This is a fantasy.
The real reason that the race remains close is not because of Madame Marois' so-called unpopularity, but the Parti Quebecois militants' continued push for a referendum that is turning voters off.
While Marois realizes a referendum is a political drag extraordinaire and has tried to back away from it, the radicals, the same ones that torpedo almost every PQ leader, continue to sell a pipe dream that voters are not willing to buy anymore.
To paraphrase a Bill Clinton election saying- "It's the referendum, stupid!"
And though the PQ may be ahead in the polls now, they haven't created much separation between themselves and the Liberals. It's hard to see them doing any better, given the horrendous circumstances that the Liberals find themselves in.
Let's face it, could things get any worse for Mr. Charest?
The ball and chain that a referendum represents is the driving force in the political movement that Francois Legault represents. He has promised Quebeckers that he'll skip an un-winnable referendum, but remain strongly nationalistic, music to the ears of most Quebeckers.
Polls indicate that a new party led by Mr. Legault would defeat the PQ and the Liberals in an election. Worse still for the PQ, they would likely finish third in that scenario.
But the biggest disaster that the PQ may face, is to have their fondest wish fulfilled, that is, a Charest resignation.
A renewed Liberal party under new and popular leader, say Denis Coderre or even Regis Lebaume, would also likely beat the PQ.
As for referendums, one small nugget of information in that same poll was perhaps the most interesting part of all.
"Meanwhile, only five per cent of Quebecers whose first language is other than French would vote for the Bloc,..." LINKWe all know that in the 1995 referendum the anglos and allophones were blamed for the YES loss and to be honest, quite rightly so. They voted massively in favour of Canada.
The separatists have always maintained that this would change with time, but apparently it hasn't, if the Leger poll is to be believed.
According to this poll, 95% of anglos and ethnic Quebeckers would not vote for the Bloc Quebecois and it isn't a great leap to say that by logical extension, they would also vote NO in another referendum.
Since 20% of Quebeckers don't have French as their mother tongue, it means that 19% of that 20% pool, would vote NO in a new referendum.
That's quite a handicap for the YES side. It means that of the remaining 80% that are francophone, 62% of them would have to vote YES for a referendum to pass.
Each year, with more and more immigrants arriving, that number goes up.
Many Quebeckers, even sovereignists, have realized that perhaps the tipping point has been passed.
The PQ finds itself between a rock and a hard place. If militants force Marois out and replace her with a more militant leader or even if they force her to promote another referendum, they are toast.
The election is almost two years away, plenty of time for the PQ to self-destruct. The real political drama in Quebec will be be the referendum struggle within the PQ.
Depending on who wins, so will go the fortunes of the party.