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The election date has been declared. August 21, in just over a month. Personally, I’m annoyed about the date because it falls right during my mid-semester exams so I won’t be able to campaign for anyone.

My tentative prediction? Right now, its very hard to make predictions based on nationwide swings – in fact, it may even be misleading. In the last few years, we’ve seen the importance of marginal seats increase relative to the Australia-wide popular swing as the major parties have intensified their focus on these seats (yes, even relative to earlier years). Apparently, both parties’ polling is showing vastly different reactions to Gillard even between neighbouring seats.

I’m leaning towards a ALP victory but with a reduced number of seats. When making predictions about how many seats will be won and lost, I think its very important to remember that Kevin07 won a record swing towards him nationally. Therefore, any seats that weren’t won last election are unlikely to be won this year. Unlike last year, we don’t have an untarnished Labor leader (Kevin Rudd), we have Gillard who has the baggage of all those unpopular decisions she has made. Unlike last year, we don’t have an incumbent Liberal leader with severe policy baggage. It is therefore highly unlikely that Labor, whether under Rudd or Gillard, would have won more seats.

The ALP needs to lose a reasonably large number of seats (17) to lose government, but many of these seats are not held by sitting members due to retirement etc – those are easily lost. Furthermore, most of the marginal seats are in Queensland and NSW. Crucially, many of those Queensland seats are mining seats and all of them are in Kevin Rudd’s home state (funny that). The NSW seats are in the so-called mortgage belt, full of racist bogans who want to turn back the boats and who fear further mortgage stress from a growing population. These issues are not conducive to a Labor frame of mind. And in the race to the bottom, Abbott is much better at showing how much of an ass he is compared to Gillard – especially in a pair of budgie smugglers. Therefore, it is entirely reasonable to think that Labor will lose this next election.

But I don’t think that will happen. Firstly, Abbott is a great Opposition Leader, but he does not look Prime Ministerial. He’s great at sharpening swords – fine-tuning attack arguments and repeating them ad nauseum till they sink into the mind of the mindless, racist marginal seat voter. That quality allowed him to defeat Rudd. But that very style precludes him from making serious policies. So far, the Coalition has been a highly negative party which has abandoned every pretence of making real policy (with the two notable exceptions of the maternity leave scheme and the mental health scheme). During the GFC, their trenchantly right-wing opposition to the bailout could have endangered Australia’s prosperity. Their opposition to any number of sensible policies shows they are unfit to govern because they don’t have Australia’s interests at heart. And this can be discerned by both politics nerds and the dumb, marginal voter. Who can look at the maternity leave scheme and think “well, gee, Abbott truly believes in this?”. Who can listen to his denial of Workchoices and think that?

If you combine Abbott’s lack of Prime Ministerial gumption with Gillard’s finesse, you can see Gillard coming out on top. The ALP’s recent round of backflips has been solidly designed to neutralise those key weaknesses I outlined – a tack to the Right on migration, a reduced mining tax. Already we have seen the gains made there, at least in WA. Now, the path has been set for Gillard to launch a more positive, offense campaign where she can set the battleground – perhaps in health, perhaps in education – but she can frame the campaign in Labor’s favour.

Am I confident that Gillard will win? Not really. Am I confident that Labor will lose seats? Yes, I am – but in politics a month can be an eternity. Just ask Kevin Rudd.

*Title shamelessly stolen from the Chaser’s new election special.

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