Having failed to chart here last week, Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett returns to our Top 20 just in time to maintain power at next week’s state election, albeit having been outdone in media coverage by state Labor leader Mark McGowan, whose win in last week’s leaders debate and sound campaigning has been quite a feat by the hitherto under-profiled opposition leader.

None of that will likely be enough to counter the ascendant WA government or WA Labor’s association with the federal government. McGowan has asked constituents to concentrate on state issues, imploring its federal counterparts to stay well away.

And stay away they have, PM Gillard heading instead to govern from Sydney’s western suburbs to try and connect with Labor heartland in the marginals that will decide the federal election. She’ll be at Rooty Hill, where the legendary RSL was long marketed as the “Vegas of the west” for its slot machine emporium — but she’ll remain as far away from them as she has from Andrew Wilkie’s pokie reforms.

Other movers this week were Trade Minister Craig Emerson and Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor, the latter spruiking that Gillard is “tough as nails” and has full caucus backing. Emerson’s recent two minute sound-bites, meanwhile, should be lauded for messaging his party’s successes far more succinctly than the bulk of his colleagues. Including MP Simon Crean, whose “wake-up call” comments on the polls have some pundits speculating on him as third choice for leader. Go figure.

Crikey Political Index: February 21-27

Finally some cut-through, as WA Premier Colin Barnett enters the talkback conversation.

Talkback top five

Malcolm-in-the-middle’s spin on Q&A boosted his already decent social media ranking this week.

Social media top five

Uncanny. Yet another NRL pin-up boy falls from grace in season launch week.

Comparisons on media mentions