Even in deepest blue territory, Bill English was followed by the spectre of Jacinda Ardern.

Two days after a disastrous poll result, the National leader spent the day in Tauranga, one of his party's strongholds. He was set for an easier day on the campaign trail, having spent yesterday in Kaitaia.

It was filled with morale-boosting exercises - a speech to party faithful, photo opportunities with children, and a walk around a shopping mall with selfies every two metres. At a stop-off at Papamoa Plaza, a three year-old girl hugged English's leg so intensely that his diplomatic protection squad started looking at her like a security threat.

At a high performance gym in Mt Maunganui, English whipped off his suit jacket and jumped on a rowing machine to compete against 14-year-olds doing a 2km row - showing he has learned from John Key never to pass up on a photo opportunity.

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Prime Minister Bill English visits Papamoa Plaza. Pictured with his wife Mary as he arrives in the rain. Photo / Andrew Warner
Prime Minister Bill English visits Papamoa Plaza. Pictured with his wife Mary as he arrives in the rain. Photo / Andrew Warner

NZ First attempted to hijack English's day by parking its tour bus outside of one National's events and spilling its supporters onto the street.

National's conservation spokeswoman Maggie Barry was inside, announcing more funding for pest control - the third large environmental policy in three weeks.

"Anyone know how to get rid of that pest outside?" said one supporter. The NZ First bus left a few minutes later.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern's face was nowhere to be seen. The Labour billboards in Tauranga have yet to catch up with her giddy rise to leadership.

But that doesn't meant she did not turn up.

"I'm wishing you good luck," National supporter Les Candy told English.

"You've got a bit of competition. She's prettier than you."

Prime Minister Bill English visits Papamoa Plaza. Photo / Andrew Warner
Prime Minister Bill English visits Papamoa Plaza. Photo / Andrew Warner

English: "Well, competition makes you better."

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He eventually confronted the issue head-on in a speech to supporters - without actually uttering Ardern's name.

"Every day you have to get five more voters over the line," English said.

"Because you know, there's people out there, they're seeing all this kind of stardust in the media around the leader of the Labour Party and they're thinking, well maybe, that looks a bit fresh.

"Well, I can tell them that's not the case. But you know what, they believe you.

"Your mission is to find five of them, and make sure they don't drift off."

In a pointed remark, he took aim at Ardern's campaign workload.

"We have got a fantastic team. I feel much better about getting up in the morning than the Labour leader could possibly feel going on the campaign with her team.

"That is why she is actually only doing one event a day. Because they can't organise any more than that. And because she hasn't got enough to say."

Prime Minister Bill English visits Papamoa Plaza. Bill and Mary English catch up with Todd Muller and family. Photo / Andrew Warner
Prime Minister Bill English visits Papamoa Plaza. Bill and Mary English catch up with Todd Muller and family. Photo / Andrew Warner

English ticked off five events in Tauranga, including a policy announcement, and cancelled another two because of rain.

"I'm sick of it," said Barb Scott, a lifelong National supporter, just after English's speech.

"It's all about Jacinda, and it's not about policy."

"I'm not fearful," she added. "Miss John Key, though."