I was a bit surprised when O'Toole won the Conservative leadership.
Not that he won. That's not a surprised. How he won.
It was always possible for O'Toole simply to appeal to more people than MacKay did, especially in Quebec. I also expected O'Toole's message, that he was a friend of socons (social conservatives) to work. What I didn't expect was that his similar message to your general run-of-the-mill right-wing Conservative, would work as well.
MacKay has always been good at one thing, convincing people he's more progressive than he actually is. Look back to his time in the PC Party, alongside folks like Bill Casey, Greg Thompson, and Scott Brison. Along with Peter MacKay, the 4 of them were seen as ideal role model examples of the progressive left wing of the party. In fact, among them, Brison was often seen as the most right-wing. The outrage among some about MacKay's deal to merge the two parties was always more than just his deal with Orchard. MacKay was supposed to have been the progressive guy who would never do such a thing.
This becomes obvious when you look at how the media talked about him, and the things he himself did and said. MacKay was never as progressive or left wing as people thought. He wasn't then, he wasn't during Harper's government, and he isn't now. In fact, if he didn't already have a history in the PC Party, and, if he lived anywhere but the Atlantic, it is quite possible, if not plausible, that he would have joined the Alliance and not the PC Party; and in so doing, would not have stood out as having views that were in any way unique or different from the mainstream member of the Alliance.
Frankly, and perhaps most shockingly, is the Stephen Harper himself was the opposite. He would have fit better into the PC Party than MacKay ever did. Sure Harper was a conservative, but the C in the PC party is conservative. There were right-wing conservatives in the PC Party right up to the end.
So then, where would Erin O'Toole have fit in?
O'Toole would have fit in the PC Party. Looking at what he has actually done, he is one of the more moderate MPs in the CPC caucus. In addition, his 2017 campaign, which lined up well with his actions, was run from the left of the party.
O'Toole is, and always has been, on the CPC's Progressive wing. So, what happened this time?
Simple. O'Toole was able to convince Conservatives that he is the "true blue" option. That he, not MacKay, is right-wing. That MacKay is a "Liberal"
It will be interesting to see if O'Toole ends up leading the party from the right or not. Leaders can, and often do, bend their own views to fit that of the party. The current US President has done this on some issues. Joe Clark, former Prime Minister, lead his party from a more right-wing position than he himself has supported before and after (and after again) his term(s) as leader ended. Contrast this with someone like Jean Chretien, or Jack Layton who dragged the party to their own viewpoints, and won big because of it.
While I don't really have any single unifying point or theme to give you about O'Toole, I do simply want to quickly note:
He's not as right-wing as the people who elected him as leader think he is.