OPINION: It's the beauty of a campaign. As quick as you can say "photo opportunity" something unexpected can turn vote-winning gold into crimson embarrassment.
It didn't start off badly for David Cunliffe at Naenae's Wesleyhaven rest home - his first stop on a day designed to highlight Labour's policies for the elderly, including a boost for private aged-care workers' pay.
No one - staff or residents - was disagreeing the industry was "not widely known for crazy generous wages".
But feisty resident Vilma Brooking fired a few broadsides and then literally floored Cunliffe.
Her opening salvo was two-edged: "When you first started I didn't really like you but you've grown on me."
She also wanted to know "why don't you let America have Dotcom?" Cunliffe said Labour would, but it was a matter for the courts.
"Yes, but we don't expect you to be too honest," Brooking shot back, but again softened the blow.
"As my daughter said, at least he [Cunliffe] had the guts to say he wouldn't work with old pimples and that's a start."
Cunliffe took her to mean Internet-Mana and repeated it would not be part of a government he led.
As soon as the questions were over and the tea poured, Cunliffe headed towards Brooking, who, after a few words, gave him a bear hug that sat him on his backside and then put him in a choker hold while patting his head with her other hand.
It seemed Cunliffe had her vote by the end, though her daughter might not be keen to see that in print. "I daren't go home, my daughter's National," she said.
Cunliffe's next stop, an assured speech to Upper Hutt Grey Power with local MP Chris Hipkins riding shotgun, seemed to hit the mark. There were murmurs of support and applause for his opposition to asset sales, a crackdown on tax dodgers and a promise to make New Zealand a place where their families would stay and work.
"We don't want to become a nation of Skype grandparents."
But the ghost of divisions past was not far away when Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy noted Hipkins - who famously opposed Cunliffe's leadership - had won a recent celebrity target shootoff.
Guppy said Hipkins carried the target around with him to show off his marksmanship. "I'm surprised he hasn't got it here today."
"It's on my back," Cunliffe interjected, not quite softly enough to be missed at the back of the hall.
- The Dominion Post
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