They point to a particularly sneaky arrangement where â€“ since the formation of the Coalition â€“ the Liberal party room doesnâ€™t meet.
The Coalition party MPs meet together but the Libs donâ€™t, making a challenge all the more difficult.
An MP petitioning for a meeting of the Liberal party alone would be foreshadowing an act of serious rebellion or a leadership challenge.
Itâ€™s a situation of such sneakiness that we might have previously thought it beyond Red Ted, more a born-to-rule noblesse oblige type than a tough numbers-operator.
Beyond that, prospective leaders Terry Mulder, Michael Oâ€™Brien and Mary Wooldridge have done little we hear to ingratiate themselves with party room members anyway.
And of course, many see that while Mulder had a strong case to challenge in the past that he never had the numbers and that any challenger could be seen as a â€œwreckerâ€ for destabilising the leadership so close to an election.
That said, Red Ted Baillieu does face challenges. His great policy initiatives so far seem to include $5 discounts on swimming lessons, a Greens party backed war on dog breeders and knocking off a silly state government plan to replicate a Parisian summer night-time festival during Melbourneâ€™s chilly winter. If we didnâ€™t dislike his brand of Liberal leftism so much weâ€™d feel sorry for him, you could almost see them air-punching around 157 Spring Street with delight at the scintillating prospect of pre-announcing the Nuits Blanche or whatever the hell it is. Perhaps itâ€™s time for the Libs to get some staff who live beyond the tram tracks. Brumby might consider the same.
Meanwhile, he does very much seem to have a problem with Richard Dalla-Riva who was once â€œstaunchâ€ with Team TB. Baillieu friendly sources believe Dalla-Riva is the loudest voiced dissident in the Liberal party room and accuse him, possibly unfairly, of being behind the highly negative story about Baillieuâ€™s leadership that appeared in the Herald Sun last week.
â€œIt was either Richard or someone wanting to make it look like it was Richard because the lines in the article are similar to what he says in private,â€ one insider told VEXNEWS.
Perhaps Dalla-Riva could play an important catalysing role in the party room, as Kevin Andrews did when he defied Liberal wet Malcolm Turnbull over his insistence that he would unilaterally determine the partyâ€™s position on the CPRS. But he â€“ like Andrews â€“ does enjoy respect across party ranks as an astute judge of issues and what plays beyond the Age reader-belt.
If Baillieu wins the election, and the current federally-contaminated polls suggesting he canâ€™t really must be deeply discounted, Dalla-Riva might well be snubbed by a vindictive Ted, angry with his former factional comrade.
But if Ted loses, as more Liberals believe than they probably should, Dalla-Riva will emerge as an important voice of reason in the party room who has transcended the factional divide and isnâ€™t afraid to point out the obvious that Baillieu is a first-class snoozer who has done little to earn victory at the next state election.
The fact that Tedâ€™s built a strong party room fortress around him is a credit to his political smarts but it will be enough to make some Victorian Liberals despair that Baillieu acts like the old-school Labor leaders after the 1955 split did when they fought viciously to hang on to the Opposition Leaderâ€™s job but never seemed that interested in the Treasury benches.