National, Labour, the Greens and ACT have all set out on different routes to victory in the country's toriest seat. The billboards dotted around the electorate lay the strategies bare
A drive around the Epsom electorate is a study in campaign strategy. Here, the machinations of the country's best political minds are painted in vivid colour.
The parties can't hide in Epsom because it matters so much. It's the difference between life and death for Act, will influence whether National can rely on a right-wing coalition partner or needs to aim for a clear majority, and even has a stake in any potential Labour leadership battle, should Phil Goff come up short.
As Q+A's Epsom candidates debate made clear, the seat is one to watch this year. National's Paul Goldsmith devoutly - some might say cynically, cleverly or bizarrely - refused to seek the electorate vote. Can you remember the last time a political candidate appeared on national television asking people not to vote for him?
National's strategy is to gracefully allow Act, again, to win the most National-supporting seat in the country [see correction in comments]. The problem is that the party's own people are rebelling, saying they want to vote their true beliefs, not strategically vote for a party that's turned into a circus. The protest has been swelling all year, but National reasonably enough sees a coalition partner as more important than a few pissed off posh folk. And they're gambling that the loyalists of the Northern Slopes will bend to the party's will come election day.
John Banks was there on Q+A, repeatedly insisting Epsom voters don't want, "Tax, spend, borrow and hope". Now you'd think that even in Epsom "hope" would be worth something, but the way Banks garbled his syntax, it sounded as if Epsom voters were fans of despair.
David Parker made up the numbers - his standing in Epsom is exactly so that he can get on forums such as this, pushing the Labour party message and maybe even raising his own profile, should he feel like a crack at the leadership come the summer.
Oh yes, a line-up like that, however slightly barking, shows how important Epsom is.And those billboards are the visual manifestation of that.
What you can see instantly is that the Greens, National, ACT and Labour are each taking very different approaches to the campaign. So let's go through some interpretations:
This is the start of my post at tvnz.co.nz. To continue reading, click here. But feel free to add comments and debate below