Simon Bridges wants to be the next ScoMo.
ScoMo was the guy who pulled off a "miracle" win six months ago. He won the "unwinnable election". Bridges wants to be that guy next year.
But, will he be able to?
There's no doubt Bridges is copying ScoMo's playbook.
He's been to Australia, met with Scott Morrison and picked his brains. Bridges' team haven't been shy about it. It's widely known around Wellington that the Nats are already copying a lot of the tactics Morrison's Liberals used in order to win.
The short, clever videos for social media. The algorithms that target those videos directly at the right voters. The photos of the party leader with his kids, branding him as the average dad. The slogans accusing the opposition of being the party the country "can't afford". It's all there in the Liberals' playbook. And it's all being recycled in New Zealand.
Take, for example, the tough-on-gangs policy this week. Yes, it is exactly what you'd expect from the Nats before an election. They trot out tough-on-crime gang-bashing every three years. But, it looks like it's been given just that extra tweak to make it fit nicely with the Liberals' strategy.
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This is the strategy of targeting the "quiet Australians". The QAs are the hardworking, mainstream, mostly working-class Australians who can be counted on to feel fist-clenching anger at the thought that they're paying their taxes are being wasted on delinquents like gang members.
So, maybe that's why National didn't just outright bash the gangs and threaten to tear down their headquarters like they did during the 2008 election. Maybe it explains why the messaging was ever so slightly different. They took their usual gang-bashing, and added in a bit of taxpayer frustration. They promised to crack down on gang members who take the dole while earning big money from their illegal activities. Bingo. Election crack to conservative voters.
This voter catnip will probably work insomuch as it will appeal to the more hardline base while not driving away the more centrist voters. It's boring. It's predictable. It never actually delivers on its promise. But it's been tested election after election, and it obviously generated positive feedback after the Nats flew the kite on the idea four weeks ago.
But, to make this work, the Nats are going to need to do more than just copy ScoMo's plan. They might execute it perfectly, but there's a problem they can't overcome. Simon Bridges vs Jacinda Ardern.
ScoMo might've come home thanks to a good strategy, but he also won because of who he was up against. Bill Shorten was about as popular as cod liver oil. Try as hard as you could, it was difficult to like the guy. ScoMo had the advantage of being the more popular of the two.
Bridges doesn't have that advantage. He's up against the woman who generated Jacindamania last time around. Even though her polls have plummeted in recent months, Bridges is still so far behind he's in a different postal code.
There's always a chance for National that copying the Liberals might be enough. But, the party might want to put it in perspective. ScoMo had the advantage of both this strategy and his own popularity. And despite that, he only just squeaked in with a wafer-thin majority in Parliament. Bridges has the advantage of this strategy but his popularity is barely double digits. Is that enough to squeak in?