Where the two opposing political leaders spent yesterday tells us something about how they read the state of play in this election campaign.

Prime Minister John Howard was in his own electorate of Bennelong attending a function organised by the Korean community. Mr Howard holds the seat with a margin of four percentage points. It is right on the mark which Labor must get to if a uniform swing is going to get them in to office.

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd spent his day feeding sheep and cattle on a farm in the Victorian electorate of McEwen. The seat is held by the Small Business and Tourism Minister Fran Bailey by a margin of 6.5 per cent. If Labor gained McEwen with a uniform swing it would be in government with a majority of 24.

Since the choice of Maxine McKew as Labor’s candidate for Bennelong, Mr Howard has clearly been worried about retaining his own seat. He has spent most weekends in his own electorate for months now and that has limited the planning of the Coalition campaign (according to Crikey’s Election Tracker, Howard has spent as least five days there during the campaign, longer than anywhere else).

Whether McKew succeeds or not, if Labor becomes the Government she will have played a very important role in the success. I note that the very astute Rod Cameron gives her a chance of bringing off what would be an amazing win. Rod, the head of ANOP and the former Labor Party pollster, is not a man to stick his neck out when it comes to predictions but the other night on the ABC’s Lateline program he came very close to tipping her and that will do me as a reason to invest a dollar or two.

The one slightly disconcerting thing I detected about the Labor campaign over the weekend was the reference to the first things that Kevin Rudd would do after winning next Saturday. Only talking about the battle up until the voting ends would be far more prudent. Any appearance of cockiness just reinforces the underdog effect I write about so regularly.

Mr Howard drew attention to the suggestion that Mr Rudd expects to win in his comments for TV last night. Mr Rudd should not give him another opportunity to do so. Far better to talk about the polls showing a swing back to the Government as evidence that Labor winning is a long way from being a sure thing.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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