The news that Sharon is to undergo catheterization of the heart in two-three weeks comes after he suffered a mild stroke last week. As it stands, Kadima is way ahead of the pack, with some polls predicting over 40 seats.
But what exactly is this party? Does this party have any selling points besides for Sharon? If the Israeli electorate loses confidence in Sharon's health, would that adversely affect Kadima's chances of making a strong showing?
Kadima is, in essence, the home for many of the big names in the Likud and Labor. Labor moved in a different direction with the election of Peretz, and Peres became upset and decided to join Sharon. Most of the bigwigs in the Likud are now sitting in Kadima. But if G-d forbid Sharon becomes ill and cannot continue, would all those Kadima voters trust Ehud Olmert or Tzipi Livni?
Of course that's the million dollar question in the media. But the question assumes one important fact: that Israeli voters would rather vote for some other party or not vote at all rather than take the risk of Sharon not being able to serve.
Let's assume Kadima will get 40 seats. 20 of those seats come from people who like centrist policies on security and peace. The other 20 are voting for Sharon, period. The first 20 are likely to vote for Kadima anyway, since no other party will fill their need (with the exception of Shinui, which might benefit a little from Sharon's bad health, but in reality runs on an anti-Charedi platform). The other 20 would have to think long and hard about voting for Kadima.
But who else would these 20 vote for? Shinui? Shinui has no chance of becoming a major player in the game and therefore will have little influence over policy. Likud? Maybe, but do they trust Bibi? What exactly is Bibi offering right now on the peace and security front? Does anyone know? Labor? Very few people who are considering voting for Ariel Sharon are going to just switch and vote for the socialist party. I don't see too many people going to Shas and UTJ either. And anyone who will vote for Sharon after disengagement is not going to turn around and vote for National Union/NRP or Yachad.
Will they just stay home? I guess it depends on the risk. Sharon is old, and he has some health problems. But how bad are they? Is it not worth the risk to vote for him and hope he continues the policies policies people like rather than just do nothing? Is Olmert that much worse than the alternatives? I don't believe people think so.
So what is comes down to is the risk of Sharon not finishing the term weighed against the benefit he bring to Israel if he does. I can't see too many Israelis forgoing Kadima just because of that risk.