Out on the campaign trail, party leaders are meeting many kinds of voters. Among them are decided voters, swing voters, and undecided voters. But the ones causing most trouble this campaign are the young voters.

By and large it isn't the young voters themselves who are causing the trouble, but the parties and groups which claim to represent them.

The young voters have been used as a justification by internet-Mana for the "F*** John Key" chants at its rallies, and more recently by the @peace hip-hop group for its Kill the PM song.

Asked for their reasons, the groups in question have come over all self-righteous, saying the main goal is to try to interest youths in politics and mobilise them for election day.


If that's what it really takes to get youths to vote then maybe they don't deserve to. But it is quite demeaning to young voters to suggest actual policy is irrelevant, but a gritty, abusive hip-hop song about having sex with the Prime Minister's daughter will do the trick.

Astonishingly, those responsible then turn around and accuse others of not focusing on policy.

Last weekend, internet leader Laila Harre took a swipe at the media covering the internet-Mana launch for wanting to actually ask Kim Dotcom questions, rather than simply turn around the prepared statement on a policy announcement. For a start, given all sides have ruled out giving internet-Mana any real power, the likelihood of any of their big policies coming to fruition are almost nil.

But the most disturbing thing about that day was not Pam Corkery's terms of endearment for television journalists as "puffed up little shits" and "creeps".

It was Dotcom's refusal to take questions and Harre and Corkery's belief that he should be exempt from doing so. He may not be a candidate, but he is a key figure in the campaign and is seeking to have more of an impact than any ordinary candidate could. He himself has said one of his aims is to "disrupt" the campaign. So while Dotcom might not owe those individual reporters anything, he certainly owes their audience something.

Harre and Dotcom would excoriate Key as anti-democratic if he refused to talk to media after an inflammatory speech and left his henchmen to physically block them. Dotcom appeared to realise this belatedly and fronted to media the next day. He used a tactic Key himself often calls on, using humour to downplay the situation. He quoted Key in ironic fashion, saying Corkery had been "unwise" and was on her "last, last, last warning". It was a prod at Key's stance on Judith Collins.

In a perverse way, all of this may be working in National's favour. Before the campaign began, National was at pains to emphasise that its voters should not be complacent. There was concern voters would think National's lead in the polls was so great they couldn't lose and would leave it to others to vote.

The internet-Mana Party and other anti-National activists have driven home National's point. What they may end up doing is helping National's own turnout. On the campaign trail there is a sense Chicken Little Syndrome is setting in among National voters. Few follow the ins and outs of the unedifying tone of the campaign, but all are aware of the shadows.

Many are increasingly concerned the attempt to derail National might work. Fear is as good a motivation to vote as any. An older woman who bumped into Prime Minister John Key in Greymouth wished him all the best. After he left, she voiced concern about events. "I think it's disgraceful, what's happening. We need him."

In between taking time out to try to defend themselves over the spiral of accusations, National has continued relentlessly with Plan A. That is the economy. Everything from its campaign video to the places Key goes in the regions are geared at driving home the message that National is a safe pair of hands in a time of relatively fragile economic growth.

Its attacks on its opponents have also focused relentlessly on economics, pointing out that the parties Labour will likely need to govern have their own lists of spending wishes Labour might have to adopt to secure that support. It's a hard message for Labour to puncture, despite its own comprehensive costings and recent announcement it was trimming its wishlist to suit economic conditions.

National did exactly the same in 2011: trying to bore people into voting it back in. There's nothing imaginative about National's campaign. It is increasingly obvious that that is by design. It might be boring, but National is relying on voters equating "boring" with "stable".

In its nine years in government, Labour managed to come up with something surprising each term, such as KiwiSaver, Working for Families and interest-free student loans. It has also been most imaginative this campaign, albeit most of it has been lost in the noise generated by external forces.

National has so far failed to produce any one big-bang policy to capture minds and hearts. It has simply extended a few hand-picked current policies, from free doctor visits for children to cycleways and rural broadband.

Even its campaign launch policy was simply an extension of using KiwiSaver and grants for some first home buyers. It is relying on the lessons of history, that whatever the buffeting distractions and crosswinds of the campaign when voters are actually standing in the booth their own hip-pockets will be top of mind - not hip-hop.