Labour’s campaign was in trouble before it began while National proved impossible to knock off course.
The dreamlike quality of the 2014 election was only confirmed yesterday when New Zealand woke to discover that everything was pretty much unchanged. For all the havoc, all the visions that did appear, it would be National politicians leading the Government with the same clutch of pipsqueaks propping them up.
With 48 per cent of the popular vote and more than a million votes in their favour, National and John Key have received a powerful mandate. A mandate for more of the same.
Working for New Zealand, steady as she goes, don't rock the boat. Rather than an Eminem rip-off, the campaign tune should've been something by Status Quo. If it ain't broke, went the message, don't spring a bloody leak.
Be it the end of the day or the cusp of a new one, the Clintonian mantra, the economy, stupid, prevailed.
Labour needed something very special, but it had no Larry Ellison. And David Cunliffe, save a vague resemblance in the jawline, is no Jimmy Spithill.
It wasn't helped by the bizarre nature of the campaign. Cunliffe matched Key in debates and Labour outdid National in new ideas, but they were denied oxygen by the smoke bombs of Dirty Politics and the Moment of Truth.
The National strategy - stonewall and counterattack - was risky, but the resignation of Judith Collins notwithstanding it emerged unscathed, stronger even. It became a blessing that all the noise began to blur in many minds with a Kim Dotcom vendetta.
All the same, National has essentially shoved the gremlins of Dirty Politics and GCSB overreach into the attic. Expect them to push their way through the trapdoor in the months to come,
For Labour, however, the most symbolically powerful moment took place just before the campaign got under way, when a malcontent persuaded a journalist to go big with his or her anonymous complaint that senior Labour MPs were furious at Cunliffe for taking a few days off skiing with his sons. Some Labourites seemed determined to see Cunliffe's big red bus go over the cliff.
Meanwhile, in Hawaii, Key leaned back in his sun-lounger, having been sent there by his senior colleagues.
Winston Peters and the Greens will now compete to "lead" the opposition. Labour, for its part, needs to regroup and rejuvenate, and give its leader, whoever that is, a decent long run. It might be said that at least things can't get any worse, but the past three or four years show how adept it is at finding new bits of foot to shoot.
Then there's the capitulation of Internet-Mana: final proof that New Zealand's very peculiar Dotcom bubble has burst. Kim Dotcom still has a strong case to make against cavalier United States prosecutors, but as he acknowledged in a dignified short speech on Saturday night, his brand has become toxic. He has caused mayhem in New Zealand politics, claiming two ministerial scalps on the way, John Banks and Peter Dunne.
But he has failed dramatically to unseat his great adversary, John Key. The collateral damage of that crusade was in fact his ally, Hone Harawira, one of Parliament's most singular and passionate voices. For the Mana Movement, it is the stuff of nightmares.