National is still defying gravity in the first polls of the campaign proper. But there are talking points emerging on the right and potential decisions looming for John Key
Ok, two polls late today, but one clear message. While the green shoots of spring are popping up around the country, it's still winter in Labour-land. While the party can't have expected a serious swing so soon, it must feel as if someone has just burst its balloon. It would have hoped for some sign of change.
Instead, it got the status quo. National defies gravity for another week, at 56 percent in the One News-Colmar Brunton poll and 54 percent in the NZ Herald DigiPoll. Worse news for Labour is that in the One News poll, the undecideds had fallen from eight percent to four percent.
That's a sign that some folk who are now taking a closer look at Labour aren't liking what they see. With Phil Goff winning just 12 percent support in answer to the preferred Prime Minister question, you've got to think leadership is a major factor in that.
The assumption is that these numbers seem a bit too high; that National must slip below 50 percent sometime soon. But let's remember, depending on the over-hang in parliament and wasted vote, under MMP it's not a simple 50 percent that determines a party's ability to govern alone.
National may only need 48 percent to govern alone, so at some stage we may have to consider that John Key may follow in Sid Holland's footsteps and win, if not a majority, then the MMP equivalent.
Even our Poll of Polls has National comfortably above 50 percent and no sign the left has been growing its collective slice of the pie.
I don't think these numbers undermine the analysis of the past week, that Labour started strongly and set the agenda at first. It may well be that the strong start and the narrative its chosen – that Labour is a party of ideas and one willing to take the tough decisions – has ensured Labour won't suffer the sort of defeat Bill English's National did in 2002. And it serves Labour well for 2014.
But it's not looking like it's been able to break the circuit yet for this race. Thing is people don't vote for tough decisions, unless they think there's no alternative. They vote for rainbows and puppies and interest-free student loans.
Key's "show me the money" line was a strong one that has put National back on the front foot this campaign. But I don't think it's got any special magic.
Frankly, forecasts at the moment, be they Labour's, National's, Treasury's, or Bill's from down the dairy mean sod-all in this global environment. Who has any serious confidence of New Zealand being back in the black in 2014/15?
As I see newsflashes this evening that the Greek government may have lost it majority and we see Berlusconi at risk of being rolled in Italy next week, you may we well pluck numbers from the phone book.
What about the minor parties? The Green Party too is staying high, thus far avoiding its tradtional campaign slide. But the really interesting action is on the right.
It's margin of error stuff, but both polls have ACT at 0.9 percent. That result on election day would mean that if John Banks won Epsom, he would be the lone ACT MP. Which is a twisted move by the political gods, if ever there was one.
Thing is, if Banks can't bring in a second MP, then he's useless to National; it may as well have another MP from its own ranks as a single MP technically representing another party. At what point, if any, does Key choose to cut him adrift?
Not yet. The Poll of Polls, before these two results, still has ACT at 1.6 percent, enough for Banks and Brash. But let's see in another week.
And there in the Herald poll is an intriguing wee number – the Conservative Party making its first appearance in a serious poll as stand-alone party. It's at 1.1 percent, higher than ACT, United Future and Mana.
One poll, of course, means nothing. And the Conservatives don't feature in the One News numbers. Still, there's definitely a narrative that the Conservatives can sell about National's need for a right-wing coalition partner. And Colin Craig has the means to throw some serious money at advertising.
It comes down to Craig winning Rodney. Would Key do to his Mark Mitchell, his Rodney candidate, what Jim Bolger did to Mark Thomas in Wellington Central? He may not need to, but it's now something to consider.