Monday's polls drove much political coverage this week, confirming Labor is climbing back into contention as Opposition Leader Tony Abbott struggles to convince voters he's a viable prime minister. Abbott's not been helped by the dredging up of his university days; for while it sees him atop our media coverage chart, even if Liberal MP Christopher Pyne contends a vilification campaign against his boss drew the polling that put PM Gillard ahead on the question of who best to lead the country. Also hit by the polls, despite leading her as preferred ALP leader, was  Kevin Rudd, whose fanciful dreams of a comeback hinged on Gillard's malaise deepening. Gillard's uptick also suggests that public sector cuts by Queensland and NSW premiers Campbell Newman and Barry O'Farrell -- attracting headlines aplenty -- are sending some marginal voters back to Labor in those states. Then there's the PM's effort to buy back Labor's base with expensive promises on disability insurance, education and dental care, in stark contrast to the ALP's harder line on asylum seekers, which borrows from conservative policy to nullify any difference. The boats compromise may also have helped the Greens back to 12% in the Newspoll because, led by a vocal Sarah Hanson-Young on the issue, they are the only ones taking a different line. Meanwhile, Sydney protests by Islamic fundamentalists were fodder for TV bulletins nationwide and led to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen mooting the deportation of foreign troublemakers while the Coalition went after a British Imam who has already headed back home. As Melbourne shapes up for a similar rally this weekend, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the protesters were provocateurs led by a "lunatic fringe".

Crikey Political Index -- September 13-19