As National began to slide in the polls last week, one senior Beehive staffer was puzzled as to why.
It was hard to argue with the unanimity of the polls. Yet the drop in National's support did not square with the reception John Key was getting on the ground. If anything, the rapport with the Prime Minister seemed to be even stronger and warmer than in 2011.
It was not the case that the polls were necessarily wrong. The last pre-election Herald DigiPoll survey had support for National spot-on at the levels registered when this edition went to press. But too much may have been made of the trend - especially by David Cunliffe who said on Friday that the momentum for change was growing stronger by the hour. It was just a question of whether there were enough hours left in the campaign to lock in enough support to put together a Labour-Greens-New Zealand First government.
Well, he had to say that. The brutal reality at press time was that Key was close to achieving the supposed impossible - National being able to govern alone.
Even if that did not happen, National clearly had the numbers to govern. And without Winston Peters. His was a pyrrhic victory. It was all very well biting chunks out of Labour's support. But it was not much use if it did not grow the overall Opposition party vote.
But that did not worry Peters, who anyway was always far more likely to go into a National-led governing arrangement.
Still, Peters looks like paying the price of spending what will surely be his last term in Parliament in Opposition.
For the Greens, the night likewise sentenced them to another three years out in the cold.
But that pales into insignificance when compared to the horror show which is now the Labour Party.
Meanwhile, Internet-Mana look to be history. All evening, Colin Craig's Conservatives flirted with the 5 per cent threshold and were rebuffed.
For Act, Epsom spells survival (again). But to what point?
There is a strong view in the party that being a one-MP party totally reliant on National doing itself and Act a favour serves little purpose.
Time to start a new right-wing party?
Peter Dunne clung on to his Wellington seat. But his party's share of the vote was hitting a risible 0.20 per cent - less than the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party.
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