Divisions between Clegg and business secretary Vince Cable emerged at the Lib Dem party conference this weekend, with Cable not taking part* in a debate today endorsing the coalition’s economic strategy.
"This time around this will be less serious for Clegg," said Westminster Advisers managing director Dominic Church. "The Cable faction will be taken less seriously. They are purely negative, whereas Clegg can point to some success in government.
"Looking at the polls, Clegg is the only one of the three leaders guaranteed to stay in power beyond 2015. We’ve heard these voices of dissent before and now people are tired of hearing it."
Westbourne director James Bethell agreed that Cable's standing has been damaged as a result of his position.
"Snubbing your leader's speech is a classic aspirant's tactic," he said. "It'll play well with Lib Dem foot-soldiers worried about anti-coalition feedback on the doorstep. And it upstages Tim Farron's annual Clegg-bashing. But it smacks of desperation, it makes him look like a grumpy old man, an impression he needs to avoid, and reminds those with a long view how secure Clegg's position remains. Verdict: short-term hit, long-term fail."
Fishburn Hedges associate director Tom Wadsworth added: "Vince has revelled in his rebel status within the coalition since May 2010, and while this is hardly Blair-Brown territory, it shows once again that it can be harder to work with your own party members than opponents.
"Ultimately, it actually suits the Lib Dems. Vince can continue to show a side of the party that Labour could work with post-2015, while Clegg can face the Tories. Rather than equidistance, the Lib Dems are now trying to occupy more of the centre ground."
*UPDATE: Since this story was published, the BBC has reported that Cable will now be attending today's debate.