It looks like the Northland byelection is all over bar the shouting. No prizes for guessing who will be doing the shouting in the bar of the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell - New Zealand First's byelection venue on Saturday night.

Last night's 3News-Reid Research poll has Winston Peters registering a thumping 54 per cent backing against 34 per cent supporting National's candidate, Mark Osborne.

Such electorate polls have to be treated with some caution.

However, the sheer scale of Peters' lead overrides any such concern. If replicated on Saturday, the result will be akin to a massacre of National in what has been one of its safest seats.

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The poll appears to be in line with National's research, with campaign strategist Steven Joyce admitting Osborne is "a bit behind" Peters.

The numbers in the 3News poll are not that different from a similar poll conducted by the network three weeks ago. That poll had Peters on 51 per cent and Osborne on 37 per cent if there was no Labour candidate.

The latest poll shows Labour voters have taken heed of Andrew Little's hint to vote tactically.

While Peters' candidacy has clearly captured the imagination of many Northland voters, the New Zealand First leader still has to translate that enthusiasm into actual votes.

Voter turnout is usually lower in byelections than general elections - especially in safe seats. However, there is evidence that Northland will be a different story on Saturday. The number of people taking advantage of advance voting is significantly higher than was the case at last year's general election. Peters' candidacy is the only logical reason for votes cast so far being close to 8000 in number, whereas the total was just over 5000 at the same stage last September.

National has resorted to a mixture of positive and negative campaigning, but has ramped up the latter this week with warnings Peters would "kill off" jobs and growth in the Northland region.

The Prime Minister returns from Japan today and will head north to campaign for Osborne. But it is difficult to envisage how the John Key magic can turn this byelection around with just two days to go.

Debate on this article is now closed.

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