A wise old political head told me recently the difference between Labour and National this campaign is that "Helen Clark is trying to put together a government and John Key is trying to win an election".
They are two very different things and, under MMP, the wily Clark knows her basic mathematics better than National. This is why she is saying this week that the result will be a photo finish. She stands a 50/50 chance of a fourth term.
There are seemingly endless combinations Clark could try to put together on the Sunday morning of November 9.
For example, Labour might have won only 38 per cent of the vote to National's 45 per cent. But once she adds in the seats of the potential minor party partners she could build a bridge across the House to form a narrow majority coalition.
Admittedly, at its most absurd, this means one giant combo option could mean a Labour, Progressive, United Future, Green Party, New Zealand First, Maori Party government.
The joy of political commentators like me would know no bounds as such an unwieldy motley crew of conflicting parties would be a magnificent circus to watch in action.
Of course, it would be a disaster in these economic times when a clear, single-minded approach is desperately required to the recession and international market collapse and, instead, New Zealand delivered itself a muddled, bickering coalition of the unwilling and the wilful.
Do not book your ticket out of the country just yet. Luckily, as I said, that monster alignment is an extreme and hopefully unlikely result.
More likely is a scenario where New Zealand First and the Greens get enough seats that Labour does not require the Maori Party, which will once again find itself last cab off the rank and stranded out in the cold.
Clark and Labour are praying Winston Peters and New Zealand First will reach the 5 per cent MMP barrier.
If he does not it becomes a lot harder for Labour to get together a government, although Clark might have to bite the bullet, remove the hatchet from Tariana Turia's back, bury it, and do a deal with the Maori Party that could see it squeak home.
Of course, there are a couple of problems. Enough swinging Labour voters out there despise and distrust Peters and the knowledge that a vote for Labour is, in effect, a vote to have Peters back in Cabinet might send enough of a shiver down their spines to send them scurrying off to vote Green or even National.
Second, it might occur to swinging voters that while they fancy a Clark-led Labour government they might only get half of what they want.
Clark was extremely evasive when I put it to her a couple of weeks ago if she would do a full fourth term as Prime Minister.
The chances are, having delivered Labour a historic fourth term, she would stand down after two years, head off to some plum international job, and hand over the reins of government here to someone else. This thought, if it occurs to Labour swingers, might be a worry.
Under its current strategy National has to come home with something around 47-48 per cent of the vote and also hope Peters and New Zealand First fail. Act and United Future's share of the party vote is tiny and both are unlikely to have more than one or maybe two seats each after the election.
Hence the fact Key has been making goo-goo eyes at the Maori. On the Sky TV/Prime Campaign 08 programmes that I do, Pita Sharples told me Key had told him National's plan to axe the Maori seats was not an issue.
On Radio Live on Thursday Key still denied doing a deal with Sharples but admitted to me the abolition of the Maori seats was "not a bottom line for National" in any post-election negotiations.
Both men are right. National's policy is to begin the process to dismantle the Maori seats after the final Treaty settlements in 2014. What form that "process" will have and how long it will take is not clear.
But the timing is still two election cycles away, which means National can put the whole idea on the back burner and eventually dump it if necessary.
A post-election alignment with National could be the smartest move the Maori Party ever did.
It could also be its death knell with its supporters in 2011.
It is no surprise then, after he had a good pull-through by Labour and Green-aligned unionists at a National Distribution Union conference last week, Hone Harawira immediately scuttled off for some brainstorming with politically savvy Maori commentators and former MPs Willie Jackson and John Tamihere.
The stakes are high for every party in this election and the result is balanced on a knife-edge.