Denis Napthine’s greatest fight

Herald Sun Editorial: Denis Napthine’s greatest fight. 21 November

Denis Napthine faces the fight of his political life over the next week.

Despite throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Labor Party, with a negative advertising campaign and highlighting its own infrastructure agenda, expanded hospitals in Ballarat and Monash and more trains, the Liberals have failed to gain traction in the past fortnight.

Today’s Herald Sun/Galaxy opinion poll shows the two-party-preferred vote has stayed marooned at 52-48 in favour of the Daniel Andrews-led Labor.

The Liberal primary vote has also remained shackled at 35 per cent while Labor’s primary vote has picked up 1 per cent to 39 since the last poll was conducted almost a month ago.

Dr Napthine remains the preferred premier but, significantly, his lead over Mr Andrews has suffered a telling cut.

A month ago the Premier had a 16-percentage-point lead over his rival, now it’s 12.

Mr Andrews’ solid campaign performance has seen him reel in the numbers as voters focus their intent and his personal profile has risen.

Today’s poll result suggests Victorians are ready to elect a new government.

A forecast tightening of the race as election day neared has, to date, not materialised.

Despite being three weeks into the campaign, and with just eight days to go, the poll shows voter movement has stagnated.

The combined Liberal-Nationals Coalition remains on 40 per cent of the primary vote, compared with Labor’s 39.

But the Greens, tracking on 13 per cent, with independents and others on 8 per cent, will take preferences to help run Labor over the top of the incumbent government.

If that translates on November 29 Daniel Andrews will be premier.

While the campaigning from both sides has not exactly captured the imagination of the electorate, the numbers do show that Victorians are not engaging with the Liberals’ message.

The negative ad blitz partnering Labor with the CFMEU and accusations they would be a bad-for-business government willing to shred East West Link contracts is not working.

Polling has for three months placed Labor ahead, at levels similar to that which saw the Baillieu government elected in 2010.

But a week can be a long time in politics and an Andrews victory is not assured.

Hark back to 1999, when the polls had Jeff Kennett’s government on track to be returned, only to be proven wrong come election day.

Just a week ago a Sunday Herald Sun poll showed Liberal gains, including in the crucial sandbelt seat of Bentleigh.

Wednesday night’s Herald Sun/Sky News People’s forum in Frankston also indicated a tight fight.

It may well play out that while Labor makes statewide inroads in overall support, the election is won or lost in key marginals.

There is another full week of campaigning but time is running out for the Coalition. Both Liberal and Labor parties have held back any police recruitment policies and other surprises for the last quarter.

The coming days will either see Napthine and his team pull a political rabbit out of their hat or Labor consolidate its lead.

And, as the politicians themselves like to say, the only poll that counts in the end is polling day.

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