Slashed from all sides by polls predicting his doom, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was channelling Monty Python's Black Knight yesterday.
"I've been in tougher spots than this," he told cheering Labor faithful at the party's campaign launch in Brisbane.
"To those who say Mr Abbott has already won this election, I say never, ever, ever underestimate the fighting spirit of the Australian Labor Party."
Rudd has just six days left to convince the nation to turn back to Labor.
A Newspoll in the Australian said huge swings in western Sydney, coastal New South Wales and Victoria could deliver 20 seats to the Coalition. Five more looked like falling to Abbott in Tasmania and South Australia.
He needs only six more to govern with an outright majority.
A Morgan poll said yesterday that the nationwide swing to the Coalition was continuing, with the Opposition ahead by 53-47 per cent. Galaxy was equally gloomy, noting large swings in key marginal seats that could give Abbott a majority of 90 seats, leaving Labor with fewer than 60.
Both Rudd and Abbott are playing down the polls.
"I've seen a range of polls, both public and private, which suggest to me this election will end up a little closer than people think," Rudd said before the Labor launch. "I respect the wisdom of the Australian people to make their judgments in a seasoned and proper way."
Abbott said the election would be close: "I think it's inevitable that the polls will tighten sharply in the last week ... Mr Rudd is a very clever politician. The Labor Party are ruthless campaigners.
"Let's not forget that Mr Rudd was a good enough campaigner to knock off (Liberal John Howard). the most successful Prime Minister since Menzies. in 2007."
Rudd did have some small gains, albeit largely drowned in the larger noise of the campaign.
The conservative British publication the Economist picked Labor as the best party to face the challenges of the future, while a Canberra University study found that increases in the cost of living under former Prime Minister Julia Gillard had been the lowest in 25 years. Real household incomes had risen 15 per cent since Rudd won power in 2007.
But Rudd was slugged again by the scandals of the former NSW State Government, with yet another corruption finding against former minister Ian Macdonald. Liberal advertisements tie key figures in the scandal to Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and to federal Labor.
None of this dimmed the Labor launch, all upbeat, tub-thumping theatre hyped by rousing speeches. Gillard was absent - she did not want to be a distraction - but standing ovations greeted former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.
"Is Kevin Rudd a nerd?" asked chief cheerleader Albanese. "You bet. Would I pick him for a rugby match or back him in a boxing match with Tony Abbott? No way. But he's the best man for Australia."
A beaming, seemingly confident Rudd listed his priorities: Jobs, job security, vibrant small business, new industries, first-class hospitals, aged care and a health system "that does not discriminate between rich and poor".
He launched new policies including tax breaks for small businesses investing in new assets, increased grants to help apprentices buy tools, a beefed-up Tafe network and local labour requirements for big projects.