The scene is set for the battle between John Howard and the man who would be Kevin Rudd.
So consider that line for a second:
The scene is set for the battle between John Howard, and the man who would be Kevin Rudd.
Who is this man who would be Kevin Rudd if he isn't Kevin Rudd? Why does he want to be Kevin Rudd? Why would anyone want to be Kevin Rudd? What could conceivably drive a man to become Kevin Rudd? Kevin Rudd, of course, does not have to become himself because he already is himself, but he can hardly help it.
Perhaps the ABC presenter meant:
The scene is set for the battle between John Howard and the man who would be, Kevin Rudd.
The comma has shifted, as has the meaning. Now Kevin Rudd wants to be John Howard, which would stop him from being Kevin Rudd, true, but only by the tactic of becoming an equally boring person, John Howard. If this is the case, one wonders why Kevin Rudd wants to become John Howard when the role of John Howard is already adequately filled by a man who happens to go under the name and identity of John Howard. How, exactly, does Kevin Rudd plan to subsume the identity of John Howard and discard his old identity of Kevin Rudd? Are the two political beings planning secretly to become one political entity, rather like a grotesque process of reverse parturition?
It's true, you know. They are starting to look like one another.
I'm scared now.
UPDATE! - Come to think of it, the line could even have another interpretation.
The scene is set for the battle between John Howard, and the man who would be, Kevin Rudd.
Maybe it just means that Kevin Rudd is the man who would be without really stating who Kevin Rudd would be. He's a would be would be, if you like, or a would be if he could be. Who knows what Kevin Rudd would be if he could be. John Howard? Dame Edna Everage? Kodos of Mars?
On the news, they also had a story about a man who got half-swallowed by a shark. Only half? Maybe he asked the shark kindly to consider the benefits of veganism, and so disgusted the shark that the carnivorous amphibian spitted him out. Who knows? It's these little existential dilemmas that keep me going.