Day One of the campaign and a victory for the Government on our Daily Verdict Indicator.

That was as it should have been.

The advantage of incumbency is at no time more evident in an election campaign than on the day the Prime Minister calls the election. The PM is the one who can give a little action to a basically dull event where the Governor General signs a few bits of paper in private.

Flying in to Canberra, driving down the beautiful tree lined Dunrossil Drive, long distance shots of the formal meeting and greeting and then the departure with mums, dads and the kids waving – it all added a little theatre for the television. John Howard got full mileage with live crosses during the Sunday morning talk shows and some lovely pictures on the nightly news.

Kevin Rudd did his best for the cameras back in Brisbane with the family leaving church but went for a rather sterile and formal backdrop for his later press conference. Still, he was probably going to lose in the pictorial stakes whatever he did.

And the pictures are an important component in the calculations behind Crikey’s Daily Verdict as you can discover in the description of the arithmetic behind them here on our special election website.

When it came to the words yesterday, John Howard had the polished grabs.

Knowing that his opponent appears these days standing before signs proclaiming New Leadership he went full steam ahead. “This country does not need new leadership, it does not need old leadership, it needs the right leadership.” It was a repeat of the tactic of taking a Labor slogan head on that proved so effective last time around against Mark Latham who back then was emphasizing trust.

With a theme in coming weeks sure to be the lack of knowledge of what the much younger Mr Rudd stands for, Mr Howard again did not hesitate. “Love me or loath me, the Australian people know where I stand on all the issues that are important to their future.” It was another line that proved irresistible to the media.

For his part Mr Rudd did best in the verbal parrying with another trotting out of his opponent being a clever, tricky and formidable foe.

Only on 60 Minutes did the Labor Leader clearly outpoint the Prime Minister. It just doesn’t seem convincing when a man who has already announced his retirement tries to talk about a vision for the future. The relative youngster, on the other hand, managed to sound as if he meant it when he spoke of his passion, and with passion, about his education revolution providing opportunity for all of “working families.”

The interviewer might have thought he was asking a hard question when he raised Mr Rudd’s multi-millionaire wife and the potential purchase of a $5 million beach house but it just served as a wonderful illustration of the benefits education can bring to an Australian boy from a modest share cropper’s background. If the would-be PM is to win, then he needs to take the support of the Howard aspirational battlers and what better story of how to make good than that of Mrs Rudd and the $10,000 overdraft with which she began her business?

If the Taverner poll published in the Fairfax Sunday press tells us anything it is that young Australians have moved dramatically to support Kevin 07. According to this pollster, 73 per cent of people aged 18 to 29 say they would vote for Labor, compared with 27 per cent favouring the Coalition. In 2004, 60 per cent of voters aged 18 to 29 voted Labor.

The many thousands in that age bracket who watched Rove on Channel 10 last night after Australian Idol would not have seen anything to make them change their mind. All the jokes were at the expense of the old fellow and a very cutting commentary it was.

It was 60 Minutes and Rove that allowed Labor to narrow the Coalition’s Day One lead quite considerably as you can see in the following detailed breakdown of how the points were scored:

TELEVISION Coalition Labor
ABC News 0.50 0.36
Seven News 0.87 0.63
Nine News 0.81 0.59
Ten News 0.72 0.42
SBS News 6.30 0.14 0.11
Nine 60 Minutes 0.30 0.44
Ten Rove 0.00 0.42
ABC Insiders 0.02 0.02
Nine Sunday 0.04 0.08
Seven Weekend Sunrise 0.04 0.04
Ten Meet the Press 0.04 0.04
Total Television 3.47 3.16
The Australian 0.04 0.03
Aust. Financial Review 0.01 0.01
Daily Telegraph 0.10 0.09
Sydney Morning Herald 0.07 0.07
Canberra Times 0.01 0.01
Herald Sun 0.11 0.11
The Age 0.06 0.06
Courier-Mail 0.05 0.05
Adelaide Advertiser 0.04 0.04
West Australian 0.48 0.48
The Mercury 0.01 0.01
Northern Territory News 0.00 0.00
Total Newspapers 0.98 0.95
ABC News 7.45am 0.08 0.08
ABC News 6pm 0.04 0.04
ABC AM 0.05 0.05
3AW 7am News 0.08 0.08
3AW 6pm News 0.04 0.04
2GB 7am News 0.08 0.08
2GB 6pm News 0.04 0.04
Sydney FM 7am News 0.08 0.08
Sydney FM 6pm News 0.04 0.04
Melbourne FM 7am News 0.08 0.08
Melbourne FM 6pm News 0.04 0.04
Total radio 0.63 0.63
ABC News Most Popular 0.13 0.18 most viewed 0.05 0.05 most viewed 0.05 0.09 most popular 0.05 0.04
Total internet 0.28 0.37
TOTAL RATING 5.36 5.11

Peter Fray

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