National's leadership contenders have just one night and one morning left to impress their colleagues and with some MPs yet to make up their minds who to support, things could hinge on the last-ditch speeches the contenders will deliver to caucus tomorrow.
Steven Joyce, Mark Mitchell, Simon Bridges, Amy Adams and Judith Collins are all seeking to replace Bill English as National Party leader when the caucus of 56 meets to vote tomorrow.
All were travelling to Wellington by tonight to prepare for the caucus meeting where they will be given a five-minute chance to speak. It is expected to take about two hours.
They were spending the day doing media and getting back in touch with MPs to make sure their supporters were staying steady and to try to win over undecided MPs, as well as ensure they were well placed to get second-round votes if it went beyond a first ballot.
It is widely expected to be a showdown between Bridges and Adams, although Joyce insisted he still believed he had as much chance as anyone.
The rivals have also been meeting among themselves to quietly assess what shape their leadership teams might take, including the appetite of their rivals for being a deputy or finance spokesperson – as well as to try to secure each other's votes if they get eliminated from the field.
It is a progressive voting system and as the bottom contenders are knocked out, their supporters' second choice votes could be critical.
All have ruled out doing "deals" by offering positions in return for votes. However, the roles of deputy and finance will come into play to try to ensure National unites behind the new leader.
Especially if the vote is close, the loser of either Adams or Bridges would likely be given the option of being deputy to the other – but both could instead seek the finance portfolio if they did not want the deputy role.
If they reject the deputy role the most likely outcome is Paula Bennett as deputy to Bridges or Steven Joyce to Amy Adams.
Possible finance spokespeople include Bridges, Adams, Collins, Joyce or Jonathan Coleman – all of whom want the role.
Adams said they had been talking to each other but had not made any "deals" or promises in return for votes.
"It's quite natural we are having conversations, as we are with the core people in other peoples' teams because we are all after their first and second preferences and we are talking about how it might shape up. That's a pretty normal and healthy part of what's happening. But it's certainly not at the point of lockdown arrangements in place."
All had been getting last ditch bids for support in. Adams said she was feeling "encouraged" by the last round of talks.
"I've been working the phones and keeping in touch with everyone I think is still in play and getting back to those who I think are in my camp and continuing those conversations and making sure everyone is feeling comfortable. I'm definitely feeling pretty encouraged by today's conversations, I can say quite honestly, and pushing hard for the line."
Adams' camp has been focused on trying to ensure she is the second choice for those who plan to vote for Mark Mitchell, Steven Joyce and Judith Collins – including trying to get her rivals' support.
Bridges too was spending the day shoring up his support. He said he would tell caucus National had been the most successful political party in history and he believed it could win in 2020. "We are the underdog but we have the best chance to win in a term in my lifetime." He said there had been two governments which had lost power after just one term – and both had been Labour. He would argue he could shape National as a modern "government in waiting" and depict the Labour-NZ First Government as "an experiment that hasn't worked".
Collins' said her door knocking and calls were done – she had spoken with every MP apart from one who made it clear he would not vote for her.
She had also met with her rivals to ask for their support if they got eliminated – and they had asked the same of her.
She would not say who she would support if she got knocked out. "I'll see how I feel tomorrow."
Collins was spending much of the final day doing media – she was on both television breakfast shows, and was the only one to accept RNZ's invitation to a "debate" on Morning Report. The others declined, saying it was not appropriate. She also went on Te Karere.
"That to me is the job of Leader of the Opposition. Part of that job is to do every bit of media that you can and I've decided to treat the last two weeks as a job interview and show colleagues what is actually expected."
Collins will use her pitch to point out her skills and experience, and to point out that becoming the next Leader of the Opposition would not necessarily be the next Prime Minister unless it was effective in Opposition.
"We are going to have to be very highly motivated and do whatever it takes."
Joyce said he would tell caucus he had the skills and experience to put a programme in front of New Zealand that would get support. He denied he was a mere continuation of the John Key – Bill English line, saying each of those had points of distinction and he would bring his own. "Policy has to evolve. It can't stay in one place from 2017 to 2020 but the direction of the party has to stay the same. The public know broadly what we should stand for. They want to know what we would do."
Mark Mitchell did not reply to a request for comment.