Todd Muller's election as National leader puts the September 19 election back into play.
If there are any doubts, then they certainly don't rest with Muller, who declares that he "intends to be Prime Minister after the election".
It's not because he can outgun the Prime Minister when it comes to her superlative strengths as a first-class communicator, nor her leadership of New Zealand during the Covid-19 crisis, which Muller yesterday genuinely acknowledged upfront as "impressive".
Nor because it will be easy for him to quickly puncture the historic poll lead that both Labour and Jacinda Ardern have opened up since the Covid-19 crisis.
But because his decision to make the election contest between the "National team's" capacity to drive the economic recovery, versus, that of Ardern with her "two or three strong performers" ... and ... "17 empty seats in Cabinet" is the correct one.
Muller's was a cleverly constructed dog whistle — even if a tad unfair — as there are at least half a dozen obviously highly competent Labour ministers. He liked the "empty seats" line so much that he rehearsed it twice during his post-coup press conference.
Dig beneath Ardern's towering persona and that of the highly competent and affable Finance Minister Grant Robertson — and others like David Parker, Andrew Little and Megan Woods — and it is obvious the talent pool starts to get shallower.
Many of Ardern's Cabinet were first-time ministers in 2017. Just Parker from the five I mentioned above had held Cabinet portfolios before.
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But then, neither Ardern nor Sir John Key, her immediate predecessor as Prime Minister, had held Cabinet posts before becoming PM. But each brought their own strengths and particular experience to the role.
But the Muller line does underscore the genuine concerns many — not just from business — have about the Ardern administration's capacity to execute. Not just the major policy planks from Labour's 2017 election campaign such as the hopeless KiwiBuild initiative, light rail for Auckland and eradicating homelessness and child poverty (although the Covid-19 crisis did add impetus to the need to house homeless people).
This capacity to execute was a major weakness which business leaders identified in last year's Herald Mood of the Boardroom CEO survey.
But also and importantly, when it comes to the Herculean task of rebuilding New Zealand's economic recovery, the high level of overarching management skill that is required. That, along with the willingness and capacity to enlist the energy and drive of senior businesspeople to work side by side with Government instead of ruling from the centre. Ardern has yet to develop this singular skill when it comes to rebuilding the economy in the post-Covid crisis era.
It is one thing to dish out multibillion-dollar largesse (which was the right step, by the way, in the current circumstances) and make other changes to put a floor under the economy. It is another to take charge of the health response and guide New Zealanders to "stay safe". Both are aspects where Ardern and Robertson have shone.
It is quite another again to listen to what business leaders are saying and not only enlist their assistance, but also mandate them to play a true leadership role in getting NZ back on to its collective feet.
This frustration boiled over last week when even the chairman of the Prime Minister's own handpicked Business Advisory Council told her bluntly in a "concluding letter" from the council that Australia was "co-optimising" the economic recovery better than New Zealand.
The PM's council had recommended on April 7 that Ardern should set up an economic recovery taskforce and a reform commission.
Council chairman Fraser Whineray went on to openly discuss this in the media.
Even the eternally optimistic Rob Fyfe, who was brought inside the Covid-19 operations command tent as "business liaison", was soon frustrated by the weight of the Wellington bureaucracy and his inability to get a real purchase with Government on future-focused plans.
Leadership is a complex art. Ardern has terrific style and has proven superb in a crisis.
She is also highly relatable.
While the country has yet to get to know Muller, he has shown that he too is a quick study.
Muller will get a political honeymoon. Even the press gallery laughed with him during his initial press conference just an hour after taking the leadership from Simon Bridges.
He wore the mantle of leadership easily with a self-deprecating style, inserting some sly jokes such as the one about how as a young National leader he had invited the MP for Tauranga to an event and he had turned up with a winebox. That MP, of course, was Winston Peters.
Go back 25 years — and Muller can — and it is obvious that he learnt many lessons working as an executive assistant to former National Prime Minister Jim Bolger. One of Bolger's skills was what he used to call "horizontal man management" (this was the 1990s).
He was unafraid to blood younger, thrusting National MPs with prime portfolios such as Ruth Richardson and Dame Jenny Shipley, who he appointed Finance Minister and Social Welfare Minister respectively in their 30s.
He also appointed proven performers to major roles such as Sir Don McKinnon as Foreign Affairs Minister.
Muller showed that touch yesterday when he emerged to his press conference flanked by young thrusters like MP Nicola Willis, heavyweights Gerry Brownlee and Judith Collins, and Paul Goldsmith, a Bridges loyalist who will continue to hold the finance shadow portfolio.
They also shared a common trait: the love of a single malt whisky.
So does Ardern.
And as does Winston Peters. If NZ First does get back at the September 19 election and does have a role in forming the next Government, they will all have something in common.