And so it comes to pass. The narrowing of the polls. The rise of New Zealand First. The Epsom cup of tea.
It had been the orthodox, if not entirely convincing, view of many pundits months out that MMP would deliver its awkward three-handed handshake of an election result. Now, to some surprise for those same pundits, they may be proven right.
The National Party's occupation of the zone above 50 per cent in public opinion polls faltered in yesterday's Herald-DigiPoll survey, with a 5-point drop that is beyond falls recorded elsewhere.
National is indeed dropping, however, and if this trend continues in coming surveys, and if Winston Peters can eke out 1.3 more points for New Zealand First to make the 5 per cent threshold, coalition partners will be required rather than desired.
So Act yesterday received its lifeline from National with Prime Minister John Key effectively urging his party's voters in Epsom to tick the electorate box for Act's John Banks.
The Herald-DigiPoll survey recorded Act at 1.5 per cent in the party vote nationally, which would give it a second MP, leader Don Brash. With Act back plus United's Peter Dunne likely to win Ohariu and the option of perhaps four Maori Party MPs, National has its defences arranged for a narrower-than-hoped-for victory.
Is Act worth saving? On its own merits, probably not. None of its previous five MPs remain and the new faces of Dr Brash and Mr Banks are hardly exemplars of a vibrant libertarian movement. A party that imploded in the last term of Parliament has been taken over by retirees who seem to exist purely to provide a flanking pair of votes to National. Yet survive it probably will.
Dr Brash, however, whose main piece of work under the National-Act post-election agreement was a rejected inquiry into catching up with Australia, will be no more personally welcome than before.
A Dr Brash whose views on things Maori border on the deliberately provocative cannot help governing arrangements for National with the Maori Party.
New Zealand First, rightly ejected from Parliament in 2008 for abusing the pubic's trust, creeps up in this campaign on the back of free public transport for the elderly and short public memories.
It may not yet achieve the threshold, as the more the public see of its leader the more likely they are to reclaim memories of secret shenanigans and divisive politicking that has damaged governments of both shades.
National's loss of support should not be seen as pre-ordained by MMP. It has failed to convince that it has an economic programme based on achievable growth and revenue amid global downturn. It has not sold its part-sales of state assets policy effectively.
Its "brighter future" credentials have not been helped by Mr Key's posturing last election on emigration to Australia, only to have farewelled more Kiwis there than in the past.
A sanitised campaign for the leader can go only so far. Mr Key's personal affability is fighting a drop in public confidence that the Government is going in the right direction.
David Lange, when Prime Minister, famously wanted his fourth Labour Government to stop for a "cup of tea and a breather". Yesterday, National had its campaign's cup of tea. For the fortnight ahead, and economic challenges beyond, it will need to find its second wind.