After the 2000 US presidential election, Republicans and Democrats battled over what their constitution had to say about hanging chads.
Even then it was obvious that, were the facts reversed, each would be reading from the opposite brief.
• Covid 19 coronavirus: 29 new cases, Jacinda Ardern announces quarantine
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Nick Ferrari says Jacinda Ardern wrong to label Easter Bunny essential
• Potty training and Easter eggs: Jacinda Ardern reveals what parenting's really like amid lockdown
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern marks lockdown D-Day as April 20 in 'marathon' fight to stamp it out
A similarly ignoble debate is underway in New Zealand over the date of this year's election.
National's deputy leader and campaign boss Paula Bennett says she wonders how "ready" voters would be for the election planned for September 19, and whether it would be "fair" to proceed.
NZ First leader Winston Peters seems to agree, arguing that November 21 would be a better date. TOP says it wants the election delayed until 2021.
In contrast, Labour and Act say it's far too early to think about that sort of thing.
The Greens, as ever, want someone else to decide, suggesting the Electoral Commission be asked to determine whether September 19 "still meets the interests of democracy". They surely know the Electoral Commission has said it's full-steam ahead for September 19.
Amazingly enough, as with Bush v Gore in 2000, each of the party's positions reflects perfectly their partisan interests, chiefly the latest polling.
Lockdown on iconic Auckland shopping strip: 'The money ran out last week'
Watch: Supermarket queue snakes around carpark ahead of Good Friday closure
Should NZ have quarantined travellers a fortnight ago? PM hits back
Similar to most incumbents, and as after last year's terrorist attack, Jacinda Ardern's Labour leapt ahead to just under 50 per cent in the immediate Covid-19 polls.
National plunged to the mid-30s, said to be the threshold at which Simon Bridges might have to consider his position.
NZ First and the Greens are on the 5 per cent cusp, while David Seymour would have two more Act MPs to keep him company.
With such a result, Ardern could govern alone. The Greens would be ok with that, figuring they'd get seats in Cabinet, but a NZ First without the balance of power would not. Act would start to look like a serious small party again. National, with just 44 MPs, would lose 12 seats compared with the 56 it won in 2017, the same drop as its debacle in 2002.
Crisis poll numbers, though, notoriously have a poor record of predicting election results. Most infamously, George H W Bush reached an 89 per cent approval rating after liberating Kuwait in 1991 only to be turfed out the following year.
Ardern herself saw her ratings drift downwards in the months after March 15, 2019, so that Bridges was on track in the pre-Covid-19 polls to become Prime Minister on September 19.
Ignore, then, any noble claims about "readiness", "fairness" or "the interests of democracy". As the country moves into a sharper depression than even the 1930s, National and NZ First know full well that, the later the election, the better off they will be.
Just as calculatedly, the sooner the better works best for Labour, the Greens and most probably Act. Labour strategists know exactly what happened to most of the world's democratic governments that were in office in 1929.
Ardern's lockdown – over which she in fact dithered during the crucial second week of March – is now on track to be a triumph. As of Thursday, there was only one death and another four people in intensive care.
New Zealanders are getting better faster than they are getting sick. To ensure compliance for the lockdown over the next 12 days, this week's crackdown is clearly visible on the motorways and streets. Compulsory quarantine at the border is finally in place.
Public health, jobs, incomes and Ardern's re-election are now inextricably linked. Tourism and international education are, at best, as Tourism Industry Association boss Chris Roberts puts it, "in a deep slumber" for at least a year.
The Prime Minister must thus find a way to re-open the rest of the economy as quickly as possible – as well as schools, universities, gyms, sports' clubs and the local pub – but without risking a widespread reappearance of Covid-19.
A further outbreak would demand another month-long national lockdown which would be more economically devastating than the first but also less effective, given the greater difficulties of achieving social compliance a second time round.
The information sent to homes about Level 3, where we hope to be in a fortnight, is unclear. If people struggled to understand the blunt message of level 4 they will be overwhelmed by all the exceptions and provisos ahead, as well as different rules for different regions, neighbourhoods and demographics.
Teens might be allowed to go to one mall but not another, but their diabetic parent or healthy grandparents might continue to be banned from both. Swimming at Mission Bay might be ok, but not at Piha. Things could keep changing even over a few hours. Targeted rather than broad-brush information will become essential.
Meanwhile, unemployment will rise sharply and owners of small businesses will have to live on much less. Meeting rents or mortgage payments will become stressful, and even weekly supermarket shops. There will be little money for holidays or new shoes. The Government's tax take will keep falling while its spending will soar.
If putting together the 2020 Budget is hard work for Grant Robertson, try 2021. This year, at least, he will have tens of billions of dollars of popular new infrastructure projects to announce.
All this argues for Ardern to keep to her September 19 plan, or even go early if Winston Peters gives her a pretence.
To help her prepare, she has a reported 80 bureaucratic working groups putting together post-lockdown visions and policies, which, as the incumbent, she is perfectly entitled to borrow for her party's campaign.
While National must also start its policy processes again, its leader's office has little remaining policy capability and too few of its MPs demonstrate the magic combination of imagination and work ethic.
But, make no mistake, despite Ardern's Covid-19 triumph, the clock is ticking on every incumbent everywhere around the world. With a depression ahead, whoever wins the 2020 election, whenever it is held, will almost certainly be thrown out in 2023. This year may be one it's best to lose.
Matthew Hooton is an Auckland-based PR consultant and lobbyist. He has a range of clients working on issues associated with Covid-19. These views are his own.