Kevin Rudd's comeback has brought throngs of well-wishers - and a dramatic rise in the polls for the party.
Kevin Rudd's spectacular "Messiah-like" comeback as Australian prime minister has given the ruling Labor Party a dramatic boost and highlighted the extent of Julia Gillard's unpopularity, especially among the nation's men.
Gillard was facing a wipeout at the forthcoming election.
But since she was moved aside last week, polls have shown that Labor has drawn close to level with the Opposition, with Rudd possibly winning four key marginal seats.
In one poll he recorded an approval rating of 45 per cent among men, but only 37 per cent among women; Gillard was liked by 32 per cent of women, but only 27 per cent of men.
In a national Galaxy poll published in yesterday's News Ltd newspapers, Labor on a two-party basis would receive 49 per cent of votes compared to the Coalition's 51 per cent.
Rudd also led in the preferred prime minister stakes, scoring 51 per cent compared to Tony Abbott's 34 per cent.
During his first appearance among the public as leader, Rudd was greeted by throngs of well-wishers as he walked through the small town of Springwood, in a marginal seat on the outskirts of Sydney on Saturday.
Mothers thrust their babies into his arms, drivers honked their horns and teenagers posed with him for photographs.
The town "flocked to see Rudd as if he were a Messiah", local media reported.
At a Presbyterian church barbecue, Rudd stopped to buy a sausage sandwich and declared: "It's good to be back".
During much of his first term as Prime Minister, Rudd was one of Australia's most popular leaders. But he was despised by many of his Labor colleagues.
A ReachTel poll last week showed Labor has received an immediate 10 per cent boost in four key seats.
Asked about his party's poll boost, Rudd said: "Let's not get too ahead of ourselves. I think we're doing okay, but we've got a long, long way to go."
Gillard's departure has left questions in Australia about the extent to which her downfall was the result of a series of personal and sexist attacks.
An Opposition MP, Michaelia Cash, said the country's most senior female minister, Penny Wong, who was promoted after backing Rudd, had been "drinking from the chalice of blood".
She added: "I wonder how loud former Prime Minister Gillard screamed when the sisterhood knifed her in the back and took her out." Wong, the finance minister and now the Leader of the Senate, said Abbott had encouraged the sexist attacks against Gillard and given a "green light to the baying wolves".