|How voters are putting together the "Ikea" election.|
But Gough went to the election as a well-known quantity and with a first term policy agenda large enough for three or four terms.
Kevin 07 replaced policies with personality and slogans like "the education revolution", relying on a small target strategy which only minimally differentiated him from the incumbent.
It worked because the last election was a referendum on John Howard's long tenure.
Labor support was boosted by the fact that after 13 years of economic growth voters thought it was OK to experiment.
One of the reasons for Rudd's supersonic decline in the polls was that once people realised he had run metres past the top of the cliff there was nothing there to support him.
Adieu Bugs Bunny.
The result was to bring charisma into disrepute again, but as small target strategies are still the text book political tactic, that hasn't left either of the parties much to play with.
They can't run too-heavily on their past records, for different reasons, so they are trying to win our votes waving shopping lists of modest policies in front of us and pointing at the other side as being an even bigger risk than they are themselves.
No sizzle and all minute steak.
So for many electors by default this election is the second instalment in a referendum on the Howard government.
(That is apart from Queensland and New South Wales where the last minute polls, and my experience this morning out and about suggests that many voters see it as the second instalment in the last state election and a chance to punish "brand Labor".
This is anecdotal, not driven by the polling).
Which means it is also a referendum on the future versus the past, something which the ALP slogan "Moving Forward" catches in a mealy-mouthed way, but the Liberals "Stand-up for Australia" completely misses.
Without strong thematic direction and effective central messages from the political parties, voters are putting it together for themselves, like a flat pack from Ikea.
We have conducted two qualitative polls since the election began that demonstrate most of these points.
Particularly when you analyse longitudinal data on the 92 voters who register a different preference in the second poll from the first – these are real swinging voters.
The "moving forward" mantra is a joke, but left to voters the future is a big issue, and is embodied for them in the Labor campaign through promises like the NBN.
The fact that Gillard is a woman, is also about the future, and in some odd ways the fact that she knifed her predecessor, while Tony Abbott is holding most of his as close as he can, emphasises movement toward the future on her side and movement back on the other.
The Libs are mostly about housekeeping, and that is definitely not about the future.
The knifing of Rudd shapes attitudes to Gillard in interesting ways, and is not all negative.
Many voters wanted to do it themselves and resent not having had the opportunity.
Others don't mind her knifing Rudd but think she should have waited a while to call the election.
They want someone with a record defending a record, not a neophyte Prime Minister.
The knifing of Rudd also has several effects on her character.
Either she is given the credit for its planning and execution, which makes her untrustworthy and a treacherous deputy, but competent, or she is seen as being an empty vessel into which the ALP power brokers have poured their ambition.
This second idea is allied to the idea that she is "robotic", a political fembot who parrots the programmed lines.
But then, her lack of time as Prime Minister leads many, particularly female swingers, to suggest she should get the benefit of the doubt.
By contrast swingers actually like Abbott better.
The themes of genuiness, authenticity and honesty come through.
He's grown on voters during the campaign and they are surprised at how well he has done.
Either that, or they hate him – hardly any swingers are neutral.
While Abbott has a reputation for being a loose cannon, this is tamed by his sporting feats, which suggest he is "disciplined".
A number of voters who have moved from Liberal to Labor disapprove of Abbott because he is performing so well that Labor might lose.
It might seem perverse, but many swingers to Labor have changed their vote despite the fact that they like Abbott better than Gillard.
There is no enthusiasm for Gillard (42% of those who prefer her as Prime Minister think she is the "lesser of two evils" frequently using exactly those words), That points strongly to the fact that while personality has been a prominent part of the campaigns voters ultimately see them as about something else.
Most swingers seem to accept that this government does not deserve to win, but the Liberals are missing the mark.
So they either win votes by default "They (the Libs) are promising little in terms of the issues that interest me such as humane asylum policies,regional city development or a clear national direction but the current government promised much and delivered little.
" Or lose them because their target is not large enough "I have not yet seen anything remotely resembling a comprehensive view on Australia's economy into the future.
While issues like paid parental leave clearly impact…it is but one policy in a broad range of polices…We are seeing too much conjecture on minutia and not enough on the broader vision for Australia and its future.
" Halfway through the election Abbott seemed to have the upper-hand.
If he loses it will be because he gave no world view that showed he was moving forward, and couldn't handle symbols of the future like the NBN.
You can't win an Australian election by promising to return to the good old days.
Menzies knew that, which is why he called his new party the Liberal Party.
More than Labor the Liberals have based their campaign on risk, and that is certainly part of the calculation that voters are making.
The question is whether they see going back with someone they like and think they might be able to trust a bigger risk than going forward.
On that basis they may give Labor one more chance.
As of this morning's polls that is a very big "may".