Current election-date speculation centres around the latest practical opportunities to go to the polls — December 1 or 7.

The PM isn’t going to say something as explicit as “I want to do you slowly” to Kevin Rudd. But Howard clearly hopes that if he holds off long enough, the Labor leader will find enough rope lying around to hang his hopes.

Monday’s Australia Rising speech wasn’t action-packed, but it featured all the major issues. It was a big-picture job. The wider the discussion, the greater the opportunity for the Prime Minister to showcase his experience — and the greater the opportunity for Rudd to mess up.

The PM is taking a calculated risk. The media is driving the current Howard turn-off. They were sick of him before the last election. Now they are finding Rudd a much more interesting story than Mark Latham ever was.

While the public is going along with the media’s program at the moment, it will be interesting to see if Rudd’s ratings hold up when Howard brings out his full-season line-up at Budget time.

Rudd kicked off the Labor Party National Conference today. For the next few days, all the focus will be on him. Policy will get most of the attention, but the Labor leader has major questions of style to deal with. There is growing discontent in caucus about a lack of consultation and decision-making by a small group of shadow ministers close to the leader. Ironically, similar criticism of Beazley was exploited by Rudd.

Caucus might need to get used to autocratic elitism. A number of former Queensland Labor MPs and staffers from the Wayne Goss days could confirm Rudd was more powerful than many ministers — and that back then, backbench MPs were under no illusion that their place in the pecking order was very low indeed.

This approach ultimately resulted in electoral defeat. Last week, Rudd was lucky not to have a major war with media, thanks to his media management over the Sunrise fiasco. Relations with the media have already been prickly. Rudd needs to be careful. You’re entitled to have an ego when you lead the Labor Party, but you’ve got to keep it in check.

Matt Price doesn’t just use the word “Kevinism” as a gag. Rudd has turned himself into his party’s pitch. Look at all the personal history talk. Think of the contents of the Australia Day TV spot. It told Rudd’s story.

Rudd’s only just began to outline his policy pitch, but he may be making a mistake. People don’t vote for you because of who you are. They sometimes vote for you because of who you aren’t. That might still deliver the election to Rudd. But in the main, voters support politicians for what they’re going to do for them.

Memo to Kevin: It’s not all about you.