They licked their wounds after disaster in 2002, but the Nats also learned from Labour's over-confidence in that freakish election.
Today, playing babysitter to Don Brash's dysfunctional party may seem tedious, but it's a burden National will bear if figures show it can't govern alone.
Political scientist Raymond Miller says John Key's advisers are painfully aware minor parties swallowed 38 per cent of the vote after Helen Clark said in 2002 she'd rather govern alone than form a coalition. Even National backers are often loath to see a return to the dark days of one-party rule.
While Key hawkishly scans the mainstream polls, a cheeky study by a journalism school was a coup for its inventors. Some called it disgusting, but many pundits said the "sexiest candidate" survey was brilliant.
Whitireia Polytechnic's Jim Tucker says the poll, asking which MP voters would most like to bed, made for interesting analysis.
His team suspected the media and politicians would go nuts for it. He was right.
Beehive staffers were exposed for casting multiple votes - one person chose Paula Bennett 98 times.
"Ninety-eight times? That's fantastic," said Bennett. "What's his number?"
Tucker's team have a new online poll. It asks: "Now we have your attention, which party will you vote for?"
That poll closes next week. And yes, Whitireia can still tell if you're voting multiple times.