"He has the practicality to quickly put the next government in place," said Saito. "He has this sense of expediency; he wants to get things done sooner than later."
But DPJ party power broker Ichiro Ozawa indicated that he was unlikely to back Maehara, even though he is popular with voters, according to Japanese press reports.
Domoto said the nation's next prime minister must be able to look outside the nation's borders to become a more effective world player. "We need someone who has a greater sense of international politics, not one who continues to look inward," she said.
While many outside experts say that Maehara remains the one to beat, they admit that Japan's politics are nearly impossible to predict.
"One maxim for Japan leadership is that the guy we all want is never the guy who wins," said Harris. "Whoever comes out on top this time, just like all the other times before that, will leave people scratching their heads, saying, 'I wonder why they chose him?'"