John Armstrong

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Campaign makers and breakers

John Banks. Photo / Janna Dixon
John Banks. Photo / Janna Dixon

The 12 points shaping the campaign:

1 Economy, economy, economy

Low interest rates, a high dollar, rising prices, sluggish growth, little progress on closing the income gap with Australia, a record Budget deficit ... and storm clouds on the international horizon. But polls show more than 60 per cent of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

2 The Key question

John Key is the reason National has been polling above 50 per cent. The party would be happy with 48 per cent on election night. That would be probably enough for National to govern alone. If anyone can pull it off, Key can.

3 The camera never lies

The TV debates are Phil Goff's golden opportunity to reinvent himself in front of a mass audience. A big ask. But Helen Clark did it in 1996. Then again, she was not up against one of the most popular prime ministers in history.

4 Home advantage

Incumbency should work in National's favour. Its (generally) sure-footed handling of the Pike River coal mine tragedy and the Christchurch earthquakes should pay dividends, and gripes about a slow response to the grounding of the Rena are fading.

5 The untouchables

Phil Goff wants to raise the retirement age and tax capital gains. John Key wants to sell big chunks of state-owned energy companies. This willingness to tackle sacred cows has electrified the campaign.

6 High Noon in Epsom

Could yet be the difference between National staying in power or going into Opposition. If a loss looks likely, Epsom's well-heeled voters will surely close their eyes, swallow hard and (reluctantly) give Act's John Banks their tick.

7 Not waving, just drowning

Will a struggling Maori Party hold its seats and see off Hone Harawira's Mana Party and Labour? And if it does, will it align itself with National for another three years?

8 Not so green

The Greens like to talk about "smart economics". But it is smart politics which now has them fishing for votes in the mainstream while not selling out on principle. But merely vacuuming votes off Labour will not result in a centre-left government.

9 Winston who?

Can NZ First claw its way above the 5 per cent threshold by taking votes from National to increase Labour's chances of forming a centre-left government? No sign yet.

10 The long goodbye

MMP is supposed to help small parties. But the big two are monopolising votes and slowly squeezing the others out. It will be "see you later" for Act, United Future and the Mana Party unless they keep a constituency seat each.

11 Tune out, turn off ... and don't turn up

Most people think the result is a foregone conclusion. Voter turnout could hit a new low, hurting Labour in particular.

12 The unexpected

Expect it. The unexpected is guaranteed to gate-crash the campaign, upsetting the most meticulous of plans of the most well-oiled party machines.

- NZ Herald

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