The first point about Monday's 1 News-Colmar Brunton poll that put National on 45 per cent is that other reputable pollsters dispute it.
The Opposition, they claim, is around five points lower and they doubt National can really be more popular today under Simon Bridges than it was under Bill English on election night 2017.
Second, even if the Colmar Brunton result is correct, it still points to a new Labour-Green Coalition next spring, without even the balancing influence of NZ First. A sharp move to the left remains the most prudent medium-term assumption for local and foreign investors.
Nevertheless, if Bridges does find himself heading to Apec as a newly sworn-in Prime Minister next November, he will be able to look back on this week as a crucial moment.
As predicted, National's annual conference in Christchurch was a success — although more so than expected.
Talk of an imminent leadership challenge has again evaporated.
The conference slogan, "Our bottom line is you" was most obviously designed to distract attention from Bridges' continued woeful personal poll ratings but its connection of "bottom line" with the concerns of voters themselves had a more important purpose.
National strategists believe that under English, and to a lesser extent under John Key, the party became perceived as interested in prudent financial management for its own sake.
This is somewhat ironic given it was they who allowed the fiscal deficit to blow out to a massive 9 per cent of GDP in 2010/11 after the global financial crisis and Christchurch earthquakes. Nevertheless, the focus through the rest of their term on returning the books to surplus took its political toll. Even the most fiscally conservative National MPs think Steven Joyce could have loosened the purse strings a little more in 2017, especially with respect to mental health.
In this context, "the bottom line is you" has connotations both that National recognises prudent financial management is only a means to an end, and secondly, that in extremis it would again be willing to loosen its fiscal stance as Key and English did earlier this decade.
More politically, "the bottom line is you" is a clever attack on Jacinda Ardern, whose bottom line often seems more about pleasing the editorial writers at London's Guardian than humdrum prime ministerial tasks like monitoring the performance of her ministers and senior bureaucrats.
The revelation on the day of the poll that Ardern will appear on the cover of a special edition of Vogue edited by Meghan Markle could have been script-written by the Opposition.
In Vogue Ardern will tell us, "One change that I've noticed over the course of my career is just how polarised the world is now. I do think there is a solution to that though, and that's ultimately us coming back to the humanity that we all share."
In response to such profound thoughts, Markle thanks the Prime Minister "for being such an amazing force for change".
National hopes, perhaps forlornly, that voters will tire of such woke, self-indulgent and historically inaccurate twaddle and prefer the Prime Minister to "notice" that houses aren't being built, poverty is getting worse, carbon emissions continue to rise, mental health services and cancer drugs still aren't being properly funded and all economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.
They point to Ardern's preferred Prime Minister ratings falling by 10 per cent since April and how underwhelming her Government looked in February before the March terrorist attack.
There is a return to politics as usual following the rallying behind the Prime Minister that March 15 demanded.
National cannot beat Labour on likeability. Bluntly, Ardern is a kinder, gentler and more personable human being than Bridges or English before him.
As Bridges' own wife puts it, the National leader is more "a dirty little street fighter".
National's calculation is that as more voters come to see Ardern as completely out of her depth on all the non-pageantry aspects of her job and her ministers devoid of administrative ability, they may prefer "a dirty little street fighter" backed up by a more competent wider team over the more pleasant incumbent.
Thus, Bridges' reshuffle this week, which brings the process of rejuvenation close to completion and in which he showed strength by bringing potential leadership challenger Todd Muller into the Shadow Cabinet with the prestigious agriculture portfolio.
Bridges now offers a lineup that is distinct from the old Key-English-Joyce club and which measures up well on competence, at least compared with Ardern's.
If the economy moves towards recession, and more so if there is a global economic shock as the US Federal Reserve seems to fear, the "dirty little street fighter" backed up by his bookish finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith may appeal more than a Prime Minister who confuses GDP and the operating balance and a Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, who confuses GDP with government expenditure.
In those circumstances, National shifting 100,000 Labour voters across the centre line to form a Government cannot be ruled out.
Nobody would want to bet on it, though. Investment decisions right now are best based on the assumption Ardern and Robertson will win their second term, but with the Greens' James Shaw and Marama Davidson replacing Winston Peters and Shane Jones as the two most powerful figures from the supporting party.
Major decisions are probably best delayed until late next year.
- Matthew Hooton is managing director of PR and corporate affairs firm Exceltium.