Like Danyl at Dim-Post I find it hard to believe that National could lose Northland. They have huge resources to throw at it, both as a party (massive polling, phone banks, transport, hordes of “Key people”) and as a government ($69 million for bridges any one?). They have a PM who is unencumbered by scruples and will say and do anything for power. Surely they are going to safely beat one old codger in a bus?
Having said that they truly are making a mess of things. If this Claire Trevett column accurately reflects the Northland mood then people are seeing through the Nats:
National Party’s beeline for Northland
This is what scrabbling for survival looks like. It’s a lazy Sunday in Mangawhai and there are few locals about. There are, however, a lot of National Party people about.
They have been at the market, grabbed lunch and hit the shops. … There is National Party president Peter Goodfellow, another couple of board members, and the minister for the day, Amy Adams. MPs Scott Simpson, David Bennett and Jian Yang also pop in. Neighbouring Rodney MP Mark Mitchell is a constant presence. Adams observes they are wearing matching outfits: “The two Marks are starting to couples-dress. You must be spending too much time together.”
When they hit the shops there are more blue shirts than voters. An elderly couple is watching and Scott Dalziel tells Osborne “My gosh you must be worried. Look at them all.” Osborne recites his line about being a team, and the man replies, “A team? You’re a bloody army”.
“Scrabbling for survival” – ouch. Nor did Osborne’s handlers do their cause any favours this weekend by trying to hide him from a face to face debate with Peters:
Q+A: National’s Mark Osborne denies scaredy cat claims
National’s Mark Osborne denied claims that he’s too scared to debate his main rival Winston Peters in person. Speaking from Mangawhai Mr Osborne told TV One’s Q+A programme, “Oh, not at all. Not scared at all. Not one bit. We’re out here talking to voters in the electorate.” Both the leading candidates of the Northland by-election were invited to a face to face debate in our studio however, Winston Peters was the only one to accept.
So Mark Osborne phoned it in. That’s a very bad look – but it got worse. From the transcript (NBR paywall):
MICHAEL But are you scared to take on the man you are going head to head with in this contest?
MARK Oh, not at all. Not scared at all. Not one bit. We’re out here talking to voters in the electorate.
MICHAEL Can I just ask you? Steven Joyce, I understand, is in the room there. Could you just point out for me where he’s standing at the moment?
MARK Uh, just back there.
MICHAEL Just behind the camera? Is he giving you a bit of information, a few tips, is he?
MARK Not at all. Not—Not at all.
So not only did Osborne not face Peters in the Studio, they had Joyce there supervising. Commentary on twitter at the time was brutal, and had Osborne glancing to the side before answering questions. It looks like a puppet, and sounds like a puppet, and they have ten bridges to sell you!
Personally, I still believe that National will win Northland. But they don’t deserve to. Could they have made a bigger mess of it?