When Simon Bridges made an audacious move today in declaring a challenge to his leadership next week, he declined to name Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye.
But it is an open secret that they are the only ticket in renewed leadership speculation since the Newshub Reid Research poll put National on a dismal 30.6 per cent, post the Covid-19 lockdown.
Muller and Kaye have been good friends for many years. They are both former parliamentary staffers, though not at the same time, and are both highly ambitious.
They are a decidedly less combative combination than Bridges and his deputy Paula Bennett.
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The challengers are being pitched as the nicer, kinder leadership team that people will be able to connect with in a way that they can't with Bridges.
Kaye who would be Muller's deputy, has a higher profile than him, having served as the last National Government's Education Minister, having had six years more experience as an MP and having beaten Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern twice in Auckland Central.
In political terms, Muller is a virtual unknown to most voters.
A year ago he was ranked only 31 in the caucus of 55. Bridges kept him at a distance.
Bridges promoted Muller to No 17 only after giving him the coveted agriculture role and only after it became a talking point that he was holding back an excellent MP because he was a potential rival.
Muller has a political pedigree and high-profile patronage in the support from former Prime Minister Jim Bolger for whom Muller once worked as a prime ministerial assistant.
But he came into Parliament only in 2014 and has not assiduously built a profile in the way ambitious MPs usually do.
He has often been mentioned as a potential leader but it has also been said that he might expect to be handed the title, rather than fight for it in the way the Bridges has.
On paper, Muller and Kaye complement each other: Muller is a regional MP form the Bay of Plenty, she is MP for Auckland Central; she is an urban liberal and he is a social conservative, both having voted on opposite sides to legalise euthanasia and make abortions easier for women to get; and they represent gender balance which is virtually compulsory in large parties these days.
Both Muller and Kaye have had a historic rivalry with Bridges to some extent.
Kaye and Bridges both started in politics in 2008 and were instantly seen as young guns with big futures in the party. It was a friendly rivalry but Bridges made it to cabinet a year of ahead Nikki Kaye, courtesy of Nick Smith's ministerial resignation in 2012 for helping a friend in an ACC case when he was ACC minister.
Muller's ambitions to become an MP were widely known after he left Bolger's office to work in Tauranga, first with Zespri, ready to position himself to take the seat from Winston Peters.
Bridges worked in Tauranga too as a Crown prosecutor but it was "Bob the Builder" Clarkson who sought the nomination in 2005 and ousted Peters in a surprise result.
Clarkson was not a good fit for politics and bowed out in 2008 when Bridges won the party's selection contest.
Muller had started a new job and did not contest it although it is a safe bet that Bridges had organised the selection so well that Muller knew he would not win.
It wasn't until former Health Minister Tony Ryall retired from Bay of Plenty in 2014 that Muller fulfilled his life's ambition to become an MP. He holds the seats with a majority of almost 14,000.
By that time he had reached the senior ranks of Fonterra as the group director for corporate affairs, was married and had three children.
Muller was National's climate change spokesman and worked closely with Bridges over the party's position on the Zero Carbon Bill.
But Bridges, as a former Associate Environment Minister who attended the Paris climate accord, took a very close interest in the policy.
Muller is aged 51 and Kaye turned 40 recently. Former Prime Minister John Key flew to Wellington for a surprise party.
She is known as National's resident "leftie," and is socially liberal on almost every issue.
She stepped down temporarily as a minister to fight breast cancer, which resulted in a double mastectomy.
She recovered to take on the Education portfolio before being kicked out of office in 2017. She is a fitness freak and ran the Coast to Coast this year.
Kaye holds Auckland Central with a slim majority of 1581 votes, and under current polling, would be under threat of losing her seat in a swing against National.
Muller was born in Te Aroha where his grandfather Henry Skidmore was mayor for five terms and was largely raised in Te Puna, Tauranga.
He joked in his maiden speech about his fantasy as a boy to become president of the United States, revealing that as a 10-year-old he wrote a "book" which saw him become vice-president then on the unfortunate death of the president, taking over for 13 consecutive years.
The next week will determine how close the fantasy comes to fulfilling the leadership dream or turning to a nightmare.