At the Conservative Party's conference Thursday, David Cameron will try to project a more compassionate image even as he calls for public-spending cuts and tax hikes.
His party is the runaway favorite to lead the next government. All week, Mr. Cameron has urged humility on his center-right Tory party and warned that victory in elections to be held before May 2010 is not assured.
He may have a point. Though recent polls show the Tories between 12 and 15 points ahead of the incumbent Labour Party, any Tory disarray in the election runup could result in a hung parliament, where Cameron does not have an outright majority or controls only a narrow advantage.
The sheer scope of the task facing Cameron remains daunting. His party need to gain 117 seats to win a parliamentary majority of just one.
"The situation is dire for Gordon Brown; the party is in a rut," says Gavin Hayes, general secretary of Compass, a grassroots Labour lobby group. "But the election may be much closer than the polling suggests, especially if people conclude that Cameron's claim to [be] a friend of the poor and public services simply isn't true."
Nevertheless, Cameron's choice of Manchester -- in the Labour heartland of northern England -- for his party conference has underscored the dominant political narrative of a busted Labour government led by a tired Gordon Brown.
Powerful voices have joined the Cameron bandwagon. Rupert Murdoch last week switched the allegiance of his 3 million-circulation tabloid, The Sun, to the Conservatives. Yet there are still obstacles blocking Cameron's path to No.10 Downing Street.