The National Party is scrambling all jets to bolster Northland byelection candidate Mark Osborne as polling shows NZ First leader Winston Peters has a chance of taking the traditionally safe National seat.
Prime Minister John Key will go on the campaign trail tomorrow and said he would visit another two times before the March 28 vote - more than he would usually dedicate to a byelection.
A TV3 poll this week showed Mr Peters on 35 per cent support to Mr Osborne's 30 per cent. Labour's Willow-Jean Prime was on 16 per cent.
Mr Key has rated Mr Peters' chances at "absolutely zero" but yesterday conceded National had a bit of work ahead.
He also set about pushing the message to National voters that a win for Mr Peters would make it harder for National to push through reforms it believed could benefit Northland.
National is bringing out its big campaigning guns - MP Steven Joyce is leading the campaign and veteran National campaign organiser Jo de Joux is also involved.
One of the first steps after Mr Osborne was selected last Sunday was to give him media training, understood to have been with long-standing National Party media trainer Janet Wilson.
Yesterday, Mr Osborne had a photo op with Steven Joyce and MP Chris Bishop, erecting a billboard in a paddock as some pigs watched on.
Mr Joyce said Northlanders would start to do the maths and realise Mr Peters was already in Parliament.
"Does it make sense to put Winston in there when he's already in Parliament? If they vote for him they'll have one less Northland MP."
But Mr Joyce said he was not worried.
"Every byelection is tough. To win it, Mark will have to earn the seat, but I'm confident he can."
He did not believe the resignation of previous MP Mike Sabin would derail Mr Osborne's campaign.
Following the TV3 poll, Labour leader Andrew Little will not rule out changing party strategy to give a nod to Labour voters to support Mr Peters rather than Mrs Prime.
No change was proposed at the moment, but Labour was constantly reviewing its approach.
"That poll result last night would have been a massive wake-up call for National. If a candidate other than National wins then the Government is down a vote and can't ram through things like the Resource Management Act reforms.
"But we've entered the race in good faith with our candidate and she is continuing to campaign."
He conceded Labour had been critical of electorate deals.
"Voters tend to be pretty cynical about electorate deals so that's clearly a factor."
Mr Peters had not discussed the issue with Labour and if the TV3 poll was accurate he would not need help.
"He's clearly campaigning hard and that poll will obviously be a boost to his campaign."