Unsurprisingly it’s taking the nats a wee while to decide who to stand in Epsom. I’d imagine that’s because they’re struggling with the maths.
For instance they could stand somebody weak in Epsom to try to get Rodney and ACT back in. But the problem there is that at current polling that’s likely to mean no more than two seats for the price of one and putting up with Rodney Hide for just one extra seat would strain just about anyone. There’s also the risk Epsom would revolt and bring in the weak candidate or, god forbid, the vote will split and a Labour candidate will win.
Also the value of a separate but small right wing party in parliament may be attractive enough to National to override the negatives of Rodney Hide. In the medium to long term it’s no bad thing for national to have ACT in parliament making them look centrist and it’s unlikely that ACT will draw much off National’s vote for a very long time.
On the other hand they could stand a good candidate such as Tim Groser (who is already rumoured to be interested). That means no Rodney and no ACT. But the risk here is that if National doesn’t get enough seats to govern alone the Maori Party will have them over a barrel.
I think that whatever the outcome the nats will leave their decision to the absolute latest possible time because so much of the decision depends on the numbers.