“Who do you trust to strike the right balance, so our firms and families can plan for the future with confidence?” the Prime Minister asked in his keynote address to the Liberal Party Federal Council yesterday.

It would be interesting to be able to put some questions about the major parties’ focus group findings, too.

The “who do you trust” line served the Liberals well at the 2004 poll. They must believe it’s worthwhile trotting out again.

Labor seems to think that the “trust” line has worn thin. Kevin Rudd and his frontbenchers always describe John Howard as “clever” – clever as in tricky.

Again, this is a line that obviously comes from the focus groups – but are they overdoing it?

Australians are a sceptical lot. We expect our politicians to be clever. We expect that they’ll pull swifties on us all the time. And as long as too many of us aren’t hurt by their tricks, we’ll continue to vote for them.

John Howard, very cleverly, is turning climate change into an economic issue. We may want to save the planet, but don’t want to see our household energy bills increase. Running a scare campaign on that is clever politics.

Many of the Government’s lines of late have lacked that clever edge.

The Government has relied on “macro” figures, boasting about the health of the economy at a time when, according to IPSOS research, 55% of Australians say that they’re no better off than they were before John Howard became PM.

Howard tried to deal with the “It’s Time” factor over the weekend.

“It’s never time for a change, unless the change is for the better,” he said. “And if the change is not for the better it is never just time for a change… change for the sake of change is never an end in itself.”

That’s clever politics, but it doesn’t really tackle what will be the key issue at this election.

Voters will support the party they think will do the most for them. Trust us .