Peta Credlin poised to make comeback
A few years ago, Peta Credlin was seen as one of the most captivating and powerful women in the nation.
The chief of staff under former prime minister Tony Abbott was known for her tough and uncompromising leadership style. From 2013 to 2015, before Mr Abbott was toppled by Malcolm Turnbull, she ran a tight ship.
She's since moved on to political commentary, with a regular newspaper column and TV slot, but speculation that Ms Credlin may run for the freshly vacated federal seat of Mallee has been rising over the past few weeks.
The northern Victorian seat has been left up for grabs after Nationals member Andrew Broad announced he would not contest it, following the notorious "sugar daddy" dating scandal.
Now Ms Credlin is said to be mulling her options. According to The Australian Financial Review, the conservative Sky News commentator is waiting to see who her opponent would be before deciding whether she should run for the seat of Mallee.
And some seem to think she's got what it takes.
WHO IS PETA CREDLIN?
Ms Credlin grew up in the Mallee electorate, in the small rural town of Wycheproof. She was a top student with formidable debating skills.
After studying law at Melbourne University, she took a job with Liberal senator Kay Patterson and quickly developed an expert knowledge of the workings of parliament.
She rose through the party ranks and went on to work as a senior adviser for three successive Liberal leaders: Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott. It is extraordinary for staffers to hang onto top positions after the axing of a party leader, so much so that Ms Credlin attracted the unflattering moniker of "The Cockroach".
She was Mr Abbott's most senior aide during the Coalition's successful run for government in 2013, and was known as one of the most high-profile chiefs of staff in the history of federal parliament.
During the Abbott years, Ms Credlin had a reputation for being tough, uncompromising and fearsome. When he was swept to power in 2013, Mr Abbott described her as "the smartest and the fiercest political warrior I have ever worked with".
After the 2015 leadership spill, which saw Mr Abbott ousted from the top job, Ms Credlin became a Sky News TV contributor and began co-hosting a weekly prime time program Credlin & Keneally in November 2016. She also writes a regular column for News Corp's newspapers.
'SHE'LL WIN AND BECOME PM'
Some Liberals believe that Ms Credlin's high profile and conservative politics could help her tap into rural sentiment.
At the same time, the dominating Nationals see her as a threat who could threaten the party's already-weakening position in the region, according to the AFR.
Ms Credlin is a well-known conservative on a range of issues.
For example, in a 2017 News Corp column headlined "Climate change zealots need to get real", she railed against advocates for climate change action.
"Scientific fact or not, any issue that's galvanised the Left to the point of hysteria makes me sceptical that it's more about the politics than anything else," she wrote.
"For many years we have been told that we must lead the way in reducing global emissions or suffer a loss of international standing for failing to do our bit. I don't buy this and never have. We're just the mugs who take these things seriously when so many don't."
Russell Lamattina, president of the Mildura branch of the Liberal Party, suggested Ms Credlin would certainly have a fighting chance.
"Whether it's to be taken seriously is another matter, of course, until she actually would say she wants to do it and until head office ticks it off as well," he told The Sunraysia Daily.
"I'm not sure if she is or isn't a member of the party but that hasn't stopped anyone before, obviously.
"No one has tried to get in touch with her because we don't know how to."
When Mr Abbott was rolled as PM, Ms Credlin insisted she wasn't going to run for politics. "I am not going to run for politics. It's been said about me for 16 years. I'm not," she said.
"I want to move on with my life and do something where I get my own voice."
But that was over three years ago - and the spill didn't kill her career. Last month John Riddick, a well-known identity inside the NSW Liberal Party, suggested she could become prime minister and be the "Margaret Thatcher Down Under".
But others are not convinced she'd be willing to give up her Sky salary, which would be higher than a backbencher's $205,000 a year, according to The New Daily.
"My guess would be there will be some speculation and she will let it run and enjoy it,'' one Liberal told the outlet.
"Having said that, in politics sometimes opportunities only come up once and if you don't take them you don't get them."