New Zealand First leader and the new MP for Northland Winston Peters has doubled his popularity, according to the latest Herald DigiPoll survey.
Mr Peters, who recently turned 70, is preferred Prime Minister by 12 per cent of voters compared with last December, when he was preferred by just 5.9 per cent.
He is now breathing down the neck of Labour leader Andrew Little, who on 13.9 per cent has barely moved since December, although both are well behind Prime Minister John Key.
Mr Little became Labour leader in November after the party entered its third term in Opposition.
The surge in Mr Peters' support is almost certainly down to the strong campaign he ran to take the Northland electorate by 4441 votes, following the resignation of National MP Mike Sabin.
The win may position his party for a stronger campaign in regional New Zealand at the next election.
And Mr Peter's improving prospects have revived speculation about potential power-sharing deals, should New Zealand First hold the balance of power after the next election.
In 1996, Mr Peters' negotiators raised the prospect with Labour and National of Mr Peters being Prime Minister for part of the term. Both turned him down and in the end the party formed a majority coalition with National, with Mr Peters as Treasurer.
Speaking from London tonight, Mr Little said the boost in Mr Peters' support reflected the fact that the country had seen a lot more of him.
He dismissed any notion of power-sharing as "completely off the planet".
"I don't think New Zealanders would respond well to that. New Zealanders like a Prime Minister to be in place doing a job."
He did not think people would want to see parties playing "musical chairs" with the role of Prime Minister.
Mr Key has just landed in Saudi Arabia as part of a Middle East tour following his attendance at the Gallipoli centenary commemorations in Turkey.
He was dogged in the second half of last week by fall-out from a blog by a waitress at his local cafe who complained that he had regularly pulled her hair despite her protestations.
PREFERRED PRIME MINISTER
• John Key 64.6 (down 0.4)
• Andrew Little 13.9 (up 0.3)
• Winston Peters 12 (up 6.1)
• Phil Goff 1.2 (up 0.6)
• Helen Clark 1 (down 1.3)
• David Shearer 0.8 (up 0.8)
• David Cunliffe 0.7 (down 2.1)
• Russel Norman 0.7 (down 1.5)
• Jacinda Ardern 0.5 (down 1.2)
• Steven Joyce 0.5 (up 0.5)
• Annette King 0.5 (up 0.5)