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1. A political candidate who attempts to supplant the current party leader, solely to gauge how much support the incumbent has. He doesn't actually want to be elected—he's just a stalking horse who's trying to see how fractured our party really is.
2. Something that conceals a person's true intentions. I'm afraid that this deal is just a stalking horse for a more nefarious long-term plan.
a stalking horse
1. If you describe an event or an action as a stalking horse, you mean that it is being used to help someone get what they really want at a later date. The development will act as a stalking horse for further exploitation of the surrounding countryside. Limits on union contributions will be a stalking horse to break the relationship between the party and the unions. Note: This expression is usually used to show disapproval.
2. In politics, a stalking horse is someone who stands against the leader of a party to test the strength of any opposition to the leader. They then withdraw in favour of a stronger challenger, if it looks likely that the leader can be defeated. There was even talk of one of them standing for the leadership as a stalking horse for the real contender. Note: You can also use stalking horse before a noun. The notion of a stalking horse challenge at the autumn party conference seemed highly unlikely. Note: Stalking horses were horses that were used by hunters. They were trained to allow their rider to hide behind them, and so get closer to the birds they were hunting.