Permission to panic, captain Cunliffe?
What now for Labour?
Today's Stuff.co.nz-Ipsos poll putting it on just under 25 per cent has been another body blow.
Along with the Roy Morgan poll overnight it has cemented Labour in the mid-20 per cent range. No longer is the party talking about how far above 30 per cent it can get during the campaign. The aim now must be to ensure no further erosion and aim for any number with a three in front of it.
The danger for Labour is that the mathematical possibility of a victory in September (by stacking up the parties of the Left and adding a drop in National's fortunes during the campaign) is moving from hope towards fantasy.
If that becomes embedded in voters' minds then a further slide in fortunes is possible.
Centrist Labour voters may cast around for another option that can soften National's edges or remove the need for it to rely on the Conservatives or ACT.
National slumped badly in 2002 from that very scenario.
How has it come to this for Labour?
Mostly ill-discipline and getting off message.
When the public and the media should have been talking about Labour's alternative economic policy, its costed fiscal plan and its new education ideas there has been a smorgasbord of other issues snapping up the headlines.
Whether it's been the return of the moa, te reo in schools, or shifting the burden of proof on consent in rape cases, the core message has been sidelined, drowned out.
Nor did leader David Cunliffe help with his self-flagellation for "being a man". A leader can win points with the voters for disciplining a backbencher or dragging a senior colleague back into line.
But when the leader himself has messed up that option, any "upside" flies out the window.
Will the caucus give itself "permission to panic?"
With nine weeks to go till election day, it's hard to see the public rewarding a move on the leader or any other major change.
But the option of replacing David Shearer with Cunliffe and not Grant Robertson is proving more high-risk than high-return.