The slick and the dead calm

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 05:00 27/08/2014
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OPINION: This election is the tale of two campaigns. One is slick, polished and organised to the last detail. The other is ad hoc, chaotic and oddly low-energy.

National leader John Key whizzed his way across Auckland on Monday, barely pausing for a breath. A brisk shopping centre walkabout was memorable, mainly for the sheer numbers who stopped him for a selfie. The campaign bus rolled up, stacked with supporters in their Team Key sweaters.

Key is merciless in keeping the exchanges swift - a grin for the camera phone, and an exchange of pleasantries and he's on to the next voter.

Fast forward a day, and his opposite number David Cunliffe was on the road in Rotorua, campaigning with ex-television presenter Tamati Coffey.

The day started with a selfie - and there were plenty - but to be blunt, Coffey was the bigger drawcard.

A stop-off at a local primary school excited pupils, especially when told a Labour government would give them each a tablet. But with only a handful of eligible voters in the room, reporters wondered how effective the visit was.

A scheduled town centre walkabout was delayed by 35 minutes as Cunliffe, Coffey and activists stopped for a curry. "An army marches on its stomach," Cunliffe said later. On the stroll he talked with eight people, two of whom were in town from overseas.

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From there, the "Tamati Tour" took them to a tourism college for a quick Q and A with students, a boutique hotel, a shop, and the local Citizens Club, where Coffey's dad Gerald is the chef.

Energy spokesman David Shearer flew in to help Cunliffe make a policy announcement on NZ Power, Labour's plan to drop electricity prices.

At first glance, it appeared to be a retread of the policy unveiled by Shearer last year before he resigned. Cunliffe said as much: "This is a re-announcement of our previous policy and a re-commitment to it."

Shearer stayed silent during the press conference. It later turned out there were two new elements to the scheme - standardised bills and a proposed investigation into pre-pay practices.

Cunliffe versus Key is a popularity contest not being fought on a level playing field. The Labour leader has been in the job barely a year, and has struggled against character assassinations from both inside and outside his party. But yesterday his campaign should have been buoyed by Coffey's star power. Instead, it was inexplicably flat.

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