Malcolm Turnbull struggles against his own benchmark

Bill Shorten’s recovery after his Turnbull-induced trough has been slow but relatively constant. Photo: James Alcock Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull remains the Coalition’s best electoral asset but the prospect of a seven-week campaign would be enough to worry any strategist. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
Nanjing Night Net

 Coalition loses lead to Labor: Newspoll

Malcolm Turnbull raised eyebrows back in September when he nominated Tony Abbott’s failure to draw ahead in the Newspoll series as the central justification for challenging.

It was beyond obvious that this was the challenger’s pitch to worried marginal seat MPs, but Turnbull’s public reference to Abbott’s popular failings – before the party room ballot – was as brazen as it was unorthodox.

“The one thing that is clear about our current situation is the trajectory,” he stated in the Senate Courtyard announcing his audacious move. “We have lost 30 Newspolls in a row. It is clear that the people have made up their mind about Mr Abbott’s leadership.”

Citing opinion polls and chasing their approval, are the political equivalent of Lot’s wife looking back at Sodom – more likely to turn you to a pillar of salt, than actually lead to popularity. Think Kevin Rudd.

Awkwardly, this very same poll series has turned against Turnbull, prompting the PM to retreat to orthodoxy when asked his view. “Really, the commentary is a matter for you, and I encourage you to engage in it, but it’s not a line of work I’m any longer involved in,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Liberals are worried though. Just as Labor had led against the Coalition when the unpopular Abbott was in charge, Labor is pulling ahead on that survey series once again. And as before, it’s the trend that is concerning. Bill Shorten’s recovery after his Turnbull-induced trough has been slow but relatively constant as voters appear either unconvinced or in some cases, disappointed that the new PM is not what they imagined.

Steadying Coalition nerves somewhat is the fact that Turnbull still leads convincingly on preferred prime minister ratings against Bill Shorten but even here, the gap is narrowing and besides, political hardheads know unpopular leaders have prevailed in the past.

But there is much concerning them too. The prospect of a seven-week election campaign would be enough to worry any strategist, but when the government appears so politically clumsy and its prime minister and treasurer are seen to be divided, the potential for mishap and confusion is magnified.

Liberals acknowledge the week leading up the Newspoll was a shambles, even if the “spin” being put on it since has (amazingly) convinced some commentators that it had all been part of Turnbull’s cunning plan to silence the states.

If you buy that, then presumably the dip in Newspoll had also been expected. That would be brave indeed just weeks out from what could be the start of an extended election campaign.

Turnbull remains the Coalition’s best electoral asset. But it wouldn’t want too many more weeks like the last one.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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