On Sunday the IR policy that dare not speak its name turned those aspirationals from Fountain Gate against John Howard.

Today, the Newspoll has made Denis Shanahan bluntly warn: “John Howard has run out of time”.

Put the results through Bryan Palmer’s election calculator and the Coalition is left with just 29 seats. That’s 29 out of 150 – down from 87.

Shanahan says “The Prime Minister has no choice but to call an election even though public polling says he faces ‘annihilation’. It’s his own word, and his only choice.”

Kevin Rudd has played a very clever game, constantly harking back to the date the last election was called. He’s creating a sense that the PM is clinging on to power, getting desperate.

Yet pushing the button now – or once Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s finished addressing next week’s joint sitting – looks bad, too.

Back in 1996, Paul Keating wanted to hang on another two weeks.

Victoria was Labor’s best hope, and he went early in case Jeff’s first Melbourne Grand Prix gave the Libs a poll boost.

It didn’t save him. Is there any hope for this PM?

It seems as if he’s been reading Crikey’s Morgan polls. He’s tapping into our language. This morning he talked to Sky about voters’ views.

“I’m a realist. We are behind,” he said. “But I do know that when the election is called they will ask themselves, ‘Is our country going in the right direction?'”

That’s a clear pitch to the soft Labor voters we identify in each and every pol – the people who say Australia is “heading in the right direction” but also saying they would vote Labor if an election were held on that day.

They were running at 17% of all voters in the last Morgan Poll. That’s more than enough to swing an election.

But what if the polls don’t change? What if they don’t narrow during the campaign? We’ve said that this election will be a toss up between economic management and the “It’s Time” factor.

John Howard’s big spending, big taxing habits are trashing his economic management record.

And his reluctance to hand over the reigns has exacerbated the mood for a change.

Last week’s Voters’ Verdict with American polling legend Frank Luntz, Sky News Australia and The Australian, identified a fascinating demographic – a considerable body of voters who believe that the Coalition are the better economic managers but want to see a new prime minister.

John Howard could have given them one last year – and given himself a place in the history books as the only prime minister other than Bob Menzies who knew when it was time to go.

Now he may have guaranteed himself a very different place – the only prime minister other than Stanley Bruce to lose his seat.