Ah precious, precious momentum. That’s what Labor has after a stumble-free start and this morning’s Newspoll. In the hothouse environment of an election campaign, all polls are magnified in their effects, generating their own reality. Changeos well within the margin of error (Galaxy/Nine, we’re looking at you) suddenly become massive shifts in voter sentiment. Well, the only problem for Labor from 55-45 (and Roy Morgan’s 54.5-45.5 from Friday) is the impression it might give that the bookies are right and Gillard is coasting to victory.

This could be the most negative campaign of all. Not in Tony Abbott’s sense of ‘filthy’ — and we look forward to seeing Abbott’s filthy Islamophobic red arrow ads make a return — but in the sense that even when the parties are being positive, they’re being negative. Both sides are emphasising what they’re against, whether it’s a Big Australia or boat people or WorkChoices. Forget ‘vision’ — we’re flat out so far hearing what the parties are actually for.

Labor are not merely being defensive on immigration, they are now aggressively campaigning on it, having constructed a straw man of Kevin Rudd. With the same enthusiasm as the Liberals showed earlier in the year, Labor is setting itself up in opposition to the idea of ‘Big Australia’ now irremediably associated with him. Given Labor’s long and proud history of backing immigration, this could be the most shameless opportunism in the party’s history.

Were the Liberals unprepared for the election? It’s not like every woman and her dog didn’t know it was about to be called, but Abbott’s first press conference looked poorly-prepped, in one of those anonymous conference rooms in a hotel somewhere in Brisbane, and the first Liberal TV ad — cut and pasted from Abbott’s online election ad in which he begs the party faithful for money — looks a throw-together job. And while Gillard kicked off Labor’s first full day with an aggressive pitch on immigration, Abbott had no set-piece other than a Sky interview most likely watch by a few thousand political tragics, and a trip to western Sydney. Maybe like an experienced athlete Abbott is pacing himself.

After a great week last week with the Oakes get on the Rudd-Gillard-Faulkner meeting, the Nine Network blotted its copybook last night by hyping a Galaxy poll as a ‘bombshell’, complete with screen crawlers before the news. Galaxy polling, which only seem to erupt around elections and lie dormant the rest of the political cycle, purported to show the parties were level pegging, a small change from the previous Galaxy poll 24 hours earlier. As a ‘bombshell’ — and Oakes himself never declared it to be so, that was his network — it was a dud.