The 2020 general election is now only six weeks away with early voting on offer from September 5.
If the 2017 poll is anything to go by, as many as half of voters will cast their ballots before election day.
Elections have long been a matter of great interest for me and this one promises to produce some fascinating contests at both the nationwide and local electorate level.
Since my last column two weeks ago two major TV polls have been published, neither of which contains a glimmer of hope for the once dominant National Party.
In the TV3 poll, National had dropped five points from 30 per cent to 25 and in the TVNZ poll the fall was similar with a drop from 38 per cent to 32.
The variation in numbers is probably down to the timing of the two polls but it should be remembered that trends, not numerical levels of support, are what matter in terms of indicating the quantum of backing for political parties.
This was the first verdict on Judith Collin's leadership of the National Party and, although she did better in the preferred PM stakes than her two immediate predecessors, she appears to polarise voters with the result that National's party-vote support has already dropped around 5 per cent on her watch. READ MORE:
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What is apparent is that Judith Collins has not created the kind of stir that Jacinda Ardern generated almost exactly three years ago but I doubt that her supporters expected that kind of outcome. Judith Collin's task is to limit the damage to National by consolidating the party's core vote.
However, this level of poll support means that National now risks getting into the kind of death spiral that occurred in the 2002 general election when the party got less than 21 per cent of the party vote.
In that election, many electors who would have normally voted National split off to support the Act, United Future and NZ First parties which collectively scored 22.5 per cent of the party vote.
A similar dynamic can be observed in 2020 with some of National's traditional vote peeling off to the Act Party, now polling a 17-year high of 5 per cent.
With NZ First polling poorly and a part of the Labour-led government and United Future now defunct, it will be interesting to see where the soft National voters who deserted their party in 2002 end up in 2020.
There is some indication in the recent polls, that many of these voters will support Jacinda Ardern's Labour Party and there is a logic in this.
If you saw a returned Labour Government as inevitable and wanted to avoid it depending on the Green Party, you might choose to bolster Labour's support by switching your vote from National.
I do not believe that National has quite got to that tipping-point, but the coming few weeks are going to be crucial if the party is to avoid repeating history.
So far National's strategy of dashing around the country and re-announcing road building projects seems to be gaining no traction but voters are not yet election-focused, so it's too early to make judgment on this approach.
I will be paying close attention to a few particularly noteworthy local contests and two of the most interesting - Wairarapa and Tukituki, are within Hawke's Bay Today's circulation footprint.
The 2020 general election will be Labour candidate Kieran McAnulty's third tilt at the Wairarapa electorate, and he has a good chance of winning the electorate following the premature retirement of National MP Alastair Scott.
As a list MP, Kieran McAnulty is already on the Labour Party's parliamentary promotion ladder as Junior Whip and is regarded by an influential insider I spoke to as "a big prospect for the future". He halved Alistair Scott's majority in 2017 and brought Wairarapa, which has been won by National Party candidates in recent years, firmly into the marginal category.
The attraction of having a potential Cabinet Minister as their local MP will not be lost on a significant group of Wairarapa voters and according to some Martinborough friends, Kieran McAnulty has been conducting a "three-year campaign".
Though Scott made a point of announcing his retirement well in advance, the National Party took an age to select a successor, farmer Mike Butterick, who will start behind the eight-ball with little name recognition.
A key point of interest will be what happens to NZ First candidate Ron Mark's nearly 20 per cent of the electorate vote in 2017. It is unlikely that this vote will hold up in 2020 and where it moves to may strongly influence the outcome.
The electorate battles in Tukituki, Auckland Central, Nelson, Northland and Te Tai Hauauru will also be worthy of attention and two of this clutch could determine the shape of a future government.
Mike Williams grew up in Hawke's Bay. He is CEO of the NZ Howard League and a former Labour Party president.