Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

The Nifty Nematode.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 22, 2007

There’s not a great lot to say about the debate except that Rudd stuck to his script and did all the things we thought he would; he answered the “why change government” question with leadership and plan for the future phrases, he bridged back to those two issues on nearly every question regardless of the topic, and he managed to do it as a coherent narrative. And Rudd made a lot of the debate about Howard himself as we thought he might. Howard has clearly become identified as a key weakness in the focus groups.

Howard on the other hand started fraying at the edges as time went on. His union attack looked anemic and his economic management argument in terms of focusing on previous achievements without adding anything solid to future directions played into Rudds hands as a clear differentiation between the past and the future -a silly thing to do with your most powerful issue.

At the very end, when Howard tried to co opt the phrase “education revolution” as his own, and then started talking about the 3 R’s as a restoration of standards said it all. It reinforced a lot of the reasons why voters have left Howard.

But the real action of the night was with the worm. There’s a powerful reason why the Liberal party didn’t want the worm anywhere near Howard, and seemed to go out of their way to stop it (although the details of what actually went on there seems to be rather murky – it just might have been the National Press Club spivs chucking a hissyfit… time will tell).

But on the Liberals extreme dislike of the worm, it’s not just that Howard usually performs poorly in these debates and the worm reinforces that perception, that’s the least of Howard’s problem with the nifty nematode. The real problem is that as soon as the camera cuts to him, the worm automatically starts dropping, before he’s really said a word.

You see, John Howard has never been particularly popular. But this reality flies in the face of the carefully constructed image that Howard has projected in the media over the years. How many times have you heard “Howard is still popular with the electorate despite being behind in the polls”, or the “The PMs approval rating suggests that the voters aren’t waiting around with baseball bats” type thing.

The problem with these types of statements is that they are using as evidence, the results from unrelated questions. Satisfaction and approval ratings are about how many people are satisfied with the way the PM is doing his job, not whether the public like him or not.

The worm though – when it starts to drop before Howard has finished speaking a word, it tells it like it is, and has done so every time it makes an appearance.

Too much worm exposure risks the penny dropping – Howard isn’t popular, never really has been and the danger of such a thing is that it could quickly generate its own nasty momentum.

For anyone that doesn’t live in Canberra, or actually walks around in the normal world that doesn’t have a singular focus on politics, this is nothing really new. Even those stronger supporters of Howard might say that he’s done an alright job, but they rarely say Howard himself is anything other than a slippery politician that they don’t much care for. But it’s one thing having most people knowing he’s unpopular – it’s an entirely different thing altogether should people start talking about it too often, particularly through the media.

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85 Responses to “The Nifty Nematode.”

  1. hergs said

    Good article Possum. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about Howard’s popularity. He never has been liked. This time Labor has been able to formulate a cult of personality with Rudd, someone who is likeable to the general public. Beazley, although competent, was generally seen as a whinger, Latham was just a mess. On a completely unrelated side note, I read somewhere today that the Libs have a swing in WA, and if they won 3 seats there Labor would then have to win 20. Can you provide any insight on this

    Cheers mate

  2. Ptobias said

    The baseline differences in the worm were certainly telling. But it was still interesting to see what it did relative to each leader’s baseline as they spoke. For instance, if Howard actually looked at this stuff he would see that every time he talked about the stability of his team of Costello, Downer et al., and every time he talked about his relationship with George W Bush, the worm plummeted. Negative messages and economic discussion both tended to turn the worm downward, regardless of who was speaking – which is why it was a very good idea for Rudd to challenge Costello to join the next debate, since those two themes are his specialty.

    I’ll agree that Howard has never been particularly popular or charismatic, but the most striking thing I have seen in this campaign is his utter surliness. He really just seems like a grumpy old man at the moment, whinging about other people, whiging about what’s wrong with the country, and telling us how much better things were in the good old days. If he can’t fix his demeanour, the policy and spending promises will make absolutely no difference.

  3. George said

    Never thought of the worm in that way Poss – good point.

  4. Possum Comitatus said

    Hergs – the only real public polls done so far in WA have been the Newspoll quarterly breakdowns that were showing a 4-5 % swing for the last 9 months. The Westpolls that measured some WA marginals the other day apparently showed something else, but I pay about as much attention to them as I do an online SHM poll. Their record isnt crash hot, their sample sizes are too small and their volatility is too large to make their polls useful.

    Ptobias, GWB sure is a popular chap! That cracked me up.
    I wonder what would happen in the debate if the leaders got to see the worm reacting in real time on a big plasma screen in front of them?

    Now that would make for some amusing television!

    Sentences ending half way through, dramatic backflips and abrupt topic changes would be the order of the day.

  5. Kirribilli Removals said

    One thing that Rudd did really well (among many) was to take the Reconciliation question with a totally different tone, where he dropped the brassy confidence, the high octane motor mouth, and geared down to an intimate, almost personal tone. And what came out? A nice metaphor about building a bridge, especially for all those people who walked over one when Howard refused to.

    It was artful, and once again made Howard look like a dinosaur; one that’s already fossilised.

  6. adam said

    Hi Poss… at last, after the pause, the refresh that refreshes.

    Howard? Popular? Who gave you all that idea out there in MSM-land? (er-hem – need quick copy for deadlines? press release anyone? straight from lib hq…)

    I hated his guts instinctively as an 7 year old (who thought that Fraser was pompous but alright). Slippery little worm indeed. Since then, I’ve never met anyone who actually likes him. There’s your real unthinkable understanding, MSM. There’s a challenger to LIKE in the other corner. The worm turns on the worm – nuff said.

  7. Lynda Hopgood said

    I absolutely agree. There has been this misconception for a long time that the voters love Howard because he seems to always have this gaggle of demented old Liberal voters following him around and throwing themselves at him at every (photo) opportunity. Somehow we are supposed be be left with the impression that everyone loves him. For me the clear implication is that only demented old Liberal ladies love him. Everyone else seem to be happy to keep their distance.

    Or to put it more graphically, ever seen anyone under the age of 30 (and I’m not including Liberal stooges in this) spontaneously go up and hug him and tell him what a wonderful job he is doing as Prime Minister? No? Neither have I.

    He’s not a warm and cuddly person and therefore never inspires that kind of loving devotion. He’s been admired by the fans, tolerated by the swinging voters and loathed by the opposition – as all leaders are – but the difference for Howard is in his fans. The diehards (with the exception of the demented old ladies) just admire him; he hasn’t been and never will be someone who is truly loved in the way that Hawke or Whitlam or Menzies were loved.

  8. Chris said

    Interesting comment that Howard made about the “private” conversation between Rudd and Bush. I wonder how much of that conversation Howard was privy to?

  9. greggowa said

    And what about the wrap statement by JHo – the history curriculum and howard, and ‘lo that word “blemish” again.

    Haven’t heard in this context since ’97 – go approx 6mins in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoJUoMcE2yA.
    Is this what we can look forward too ? More of the same old, same old…….same divisive old cunning fox.

  10. Ptobias said

    Chris, the comment Howard made did not require any information not in the public record. They tried to make an issue of it at the time – Rudd said little about the conversation but indicated it was mostly about foreign policy and Iraq, but that they “touched on” (or something similar) climate change. Unfortunately for the Libs, the whole APEC thing exploded in their face (Chaser, leadership noon-challenge, etc.) so they had to assume the foetal position for a while. It looks like Howard tried to dig it up as a way of questioning whether Rudd is serious about climate change – which has the downside of reminding people that Howard himself isn’t serious about it.

    Possum, I love your idea – except that I honestly think that if Howard saw the worm last night he would have just walked off stage yelling about how ungrateful Australians are, after everything he and his team have done for us.

  11. wilful said

    The popular v satisfaction question is like the “happy with the way things are going” survey question. Which I would answer in the affirmative, but that would be in spite of not because of the last 11 years of Government.

  12. Francis said

    On the weekend I discovered my housemate was – gasp – a liberal voter. But she told me in a strange way. She was explained to me how, you know, sure Rudd was doing well in the polls at the moment, but there are just so many ‘anti-Howard’ people that people just don’t want to speak up.

    At first i thought her slightly apprehensive tone was because she was worried about an avalanche of hidden howard votes. But later i realised it’s because she knew i’m a ruddite.

    Her attitude is the exact kind of attitude that Possum is talking about. But i think Possum’s theory about the worm is actually upside down. The reflexive down-worm when howard was on would actually REINFORCE that image. Sure, people want to be “seen” to not like howard, but this fits in neatly with the worldview where Howard is the harsh but fair ship captain assaulted on every side by bleeding hearts. She will read that he lost the debate and lost the worm, but that must reflect the fact that he’s a responsible politician making the tough calls on the economy, rather than the possibility that his arguments and policies are actually populist tripe that don’t even stand up to the casual scrutiny of a one-hour debate.

    But who knows, maybe even she will notice how much he and the rest of the government are flailing about at the moment

  13. bunny bampton said

    possum, you’re a real little darling! i love your incisive psepho-comments and your gorgeous wit and banter too. and also, i think you may be just a teensy bit left wing like i am but tell me, hun, does your handle, “possum comitatus”, translate (in the australian context, as commentators are fond of saying) into something like: no armed possums shall ever be used against the citizenry, only politicians? if so, i’m all for it.

    everything possum is golden!


  14. Timbo said

    oooooooooo, Possum’s got a girlfriend

  15. Droo said


    You said: “For anyone that doesn’t live in Canberra, or actually walks around in the normal world that doesn’t have a singular focus on politics, this is nothing really new”.

    C’mon, give us a break. A lot of us who live in Canberra don’t make our living from politics or the media and we are not fooled by JWH at all. Some of us are actually quite decent people! Most of us here actually dislike being tarred with a brush really only directed those who make their living in the big house on the hill.

    Great work, BTW. Roll on 24 November so we can boot the rodent where the sun don’t shine…


  16. adam said

    and thinking about it again… could it be that this spin reflects a deep-seated liberal party need to justify their OWN inability to out-fox howard themselves in internal machinations?

    for insight, we could look to the association that kidnapped people often develop with their kidnappers. this association often turns to love, in an attempt to make sense of the denial of freedom.

    now we see: the liberal party itself turns to john in “love”, not because they actually do, but because it is the most palatable option. it hides their own ineffectual inability to do better without him – with hewson, downer as expressions of their political freedom. taking him on as a hope, they capitulate that freedom to this narrow-minded don (how ironic, that his bradman has such a kiss-my-ring first name…)

    this mindflip is then sold as “the people’s” opinion, the better to hide the projection. so ask yourself – why did downer *really* love him so much all these years?

  17. Leinad said

    possum and bunny – forbidden love…

  18. Francis said

    forbidden love… just like howard and downer?

    In fact for those of you whole like that sort of thing, there is an incredibly hilarious and incredibly gross bit of slash fiction on Tony Blair and Gordon Brown at http://www.michaelkelly.fsnet.co.uk/bnb.htm

  19. Chris said

    Ptobias, That info (Rudd meeting details with Bush) is probably out in the public domain but it didn’t come across too well IMO.

    For me, it was an interesting debate. Rudd scored a few points talking about Howard’s time as Treasurer but surprisingly he didn’t seem to land a big one on climate change. Howard seems to have bridged that gap somewhat or Rudd was under prepared.

    Would love to see Costello v Rudd. It would be hard challenge for Costello to walk away from if the gauntlet was thrown down. Be nice to see what the worm thinks of the PM in waiting.

  20. Crikey Whitey said

    Yes, Chris at 8. I thought it was private, not televised or anything. Maybe GWB was chatting afterwards with The Man O’ War, and just forgot what was said. Or had no idea of the topic.

  21. stevet said

    Maybe it is just the company I keep, but everyone I know hates Howard’s guts. Back in the eighties he was known as Mr 18%. Who will ever forget the famous Bulletin cover?

    He does have his supporters, but I think he really has managed to polarise Australian society. I remember a woman telling me a few years ago that he was the best PM Australia has ever had, to which I replied, “No, only the best PM sice Billy McMahon.” She got it.

  22. Rod said

    I’m intrigued by the comments from some of the Lib supporters on the ABC item dealing with Rudd’s call for a debate with Costello ( and similarly those who imagine Costello would have won this election if given the chance).

    They really believe that Costello would walk the floor. THey think that Costello’s sarcastic, leering, approach actually cuts it with the voters. To most people, I’m sure, it simply comes across as much the same as Keating at his worst, but without Keating’s style.

    It may be a turn-on to the “private school boys who wanna be corporate lawyers” in the Young Libs but it has about as much appeal to most people as a three weeks dead cat stuck under the floorboards. If the Libs are really going to have any hope in this election then they need to find a place to bury Costello until the voting is over. I suspect, though, that Costello himself doesn’t realise the damage he does them.

  23. Crikey Whitey said

    Quite Rod 22

    The Smirk’s Lament (able)

    He’s moaning
    He’s droning
    He still is boring me to tears
    After all these years

    Still got my own music to blog by going.

  24. Crikey Whitey said

    Baby echidna could help save cousin

    Apologies to the SMH October 22, 2007 – 5:25PM

    A baby echidna born at Perth Zoo will be closely watched as part of a research project to help save a separate endangered species of echidna.

    Researchers at Perth Zoo have been watching six Short-beaked echidnas, named Peter, Tony, Dolly, Brendan, Drewsy and Joey, since May to gather information about echidna reproduction and help save their endangered cousin, the Long-beaked echidna.

    The Long-beaked echidna …is now facing extinction.

    Perth Zoo’s curator of Australian fauna John Lemon said the Short-beaked echidna is found in Australia, PNG, Papua and some off-shore islands.

    “It is hoped that by unravelling the secrets of the Short-beaked echidna this knowledge can be applied to the threatened Long-beaked echidna and help in building up a captive ‘insurance’ or back-up population of this endangered species in case it becomes extinct in the wild,” Mr Lemon said.

  25. Hamster said

    Adam #16… insightful stuff!

    Howard as abuser, and the Parlimentary Liberal Party as his fearful, dependent victims hoisted by their own Orwellian petard. Oh, the humanity…

  26. Rod said

    Interestingly the short beaked echidnas have started to appear on own little block in Hurstbridge, in the electorate of McEwan. (This is always a matter of some concern to me as our Airedale , despite quite a few years experience with them, continually manages to bloody her nose by getting way too cloase to them)

    Saw one wandering up the main road today, in grave danger of being squashed.

    It seems though, that the boss short beaked echidna around here, named Fran, is developing a new strategy to avoid extinction. Received a flyer in the mail box from her the other day. Despite the fact that she is a Minister in the current government it made no mention whatsoever that she is a Liberal echidna. The word Liberal didn’t appear once upon the document. Nor was there any mention of the endangered super boss Long Beak, nor of the other short beaks that you mention.

    The document didn’t bear any of the regular pigmentation that normally accompanies missives from this particular echidna family either. Not so much as a patch of blue! Not even a bit of the British tricolour! Instead the document was printed in a gentle shade of green! Clearly this is an example of evolution in action. There must be some sort of selective advantage in adopting a colour scheme that isn’t so obvious to human predators as the one that she was making use of when we last saw her three years ago!

  27. Bingo said

    Ditto Droo. My experience is that Canberra is mostly pro-Labor. People here couldnt understand why Keating lost to the rodent in ’96, let alone voting him back in again election after election. Only hope the rest of Australia has finally smelt the rat.

  28. Aspirational Aspirationalist said

    Lynda #7 said “Or to put it more graphically, ever seen anyone under the age of 30 (and I’m not including Liberal stooges in this) spontaneously go up and hug him and tell him what a wonderful job he is doing as Prime Minister? No? Neither have I.”

    I have. although it was the same guy on two occasions. The first time he had a plastic battle-axe and the second time he had a ticking chainsaw and didn’t get a hug……..(The chaser).

    A gauge i think would be more appropriate is “If X turned up unannounced, Would you make an extra seat at the dinner table for him/her ” ? There are some people i’d give my meal to and wait on.

    Poss, Apparently 2.4 million tuned in. http://www.smh.com.au/news/federalelection2007news/24m-viewers-tuned-in/2007/10/22/1192940945143.html

    What effect do you see on the weekly worm (polls) ? , surely it’ll have a significant impact. When is the next one out that
    will have been taken wholly after the debate ?

    And as far as the worm went, I’m putting down its later reactions of jumping to positive/negative territory as
    soon as a person started speaking to people turning the dial because they had made up their minds.

  29. Diana said

    Rod #22 well spotted about Costello. I couldn’t believe how much of a dill he made of himself yesterday. First up on The Insiders he said that if he becomes PM he has no intention of living in the Lodge, he likes his own home and garden. Did I miss something? Has relocating federal parliament back to Melbourne suddenly become Coalition policy? Then he made an utter prat of himself during the debate, having to be cautioned for interjecting and giggling with Downer…such a bad look! The man clearly doesn’t have the gravitas or the guts required to take on the top job. The Libs would do well to keep him out of the limelight as much as possible…familiarity really does breed contempt with this bloke. Oh, and Possum, I note the PM had a special word for you, almost his last word in the Debate. “Spelling”. Apparently, he hasn’t heard the universal response of under 30s when this issue is raised ‘that’s what Spell Check is for!’

  30. Possum Comitatus said

    Oi Diana!

    As Mark Twain said, “I don’t give a damn for a man who can spell a word only one way.” :mrgreen:

    Cheeky bugger!

  31. Possum Comitatus said

    Bunny, flattery will get you… oh, probably everywhere 😉

    Adam, I like that take, sort of an institutional Stockholm syndrome.

    Rod, I think you’re right with Costello – he has all the bad traits of Keating without the wit and the intelligence.I dont think the Libs fully grasp how electorally poisonous he would be to the electorate (well, some obviously do – that’s why Howard is still there). I’ve never seen a leaders poll that had even a marginally good word to say about Costello’s public support.

    AA – even though a fair few people watched the debate, a lot of the important ones were watching Australian Idol. In many respects, the Channel 10 news coverage today of the debate and the worm fiasco was probably more important in more seats than the actual debate itself. I think it certainly would have shored up a fair number of ex-Coalition voters that were trying Rudd on for size – so the effects of the debate are probably more under the surface than headline poll numbers.

    So saying, it followed the tax policy and the childcare policy, and when you combine that with the more volatile poll results we’ll get until the last week of the election where everyone will start using large samples, anything is possible. But remember folks, the poll results are going to be all over the place over the next 4 weeks.

  32. Big Jobs said

    If the Libs are really going to have any hope in this election then they need to find a place to bury Costello until the voting is over.

    How about Philip Ruddock’s present location?

  33. pligg.com said

    The Nifty Nematode. « Possums Pollytics

    There’s not a great lot to say about the debate except that Rudd stuck to his script and did all the things we thought he would; he answered the “why change government” question with leadership and plan for the future phrases, he bridged back to …

  34. Tim said

    Howard was definitely not a “Happy Camper” last night. He imposed ridiculous conditions on the debate in the hope that the Ruddster would walk away in a tanty fit. (JWH as he’s been messing with your mind for 11 months, why would he stop now!)

    How do the Libs get El Rodente to move away from being the “Captain Grumpy” of “The Campaign”? I know get Janette to invite Peter and Tanya over to dinner for a little tête-à-tête about “Gramps’s little attitude problems” :).

  35. Lomandra said

    Now Possum, you know I love you dearly (and have been saying so for far longer than this “bunny” fly-in), but having worked a bit with nematodes, I have to take you to task.

    Nematodes are not true worms. Worms, at least the earthworm variety–which is clearly the worm in question, not least because we’re limiting the possibilities to something visible on the bottom of a TV screen–are segmented. Nematodes are microscopic and unsegmented, and have an external cuticle which they shed to allow growth. Some also have teeth which they use to pierce the cells of hosts.

    There. I feel better now.

    That aside, excellent analysis. Again.

  36. Martin said

    Newspoll: 58/42 Labor/Coalition

  37. Burgey said

    Someone get the smelling salts. Taken BEFORE the debate as well.

  38. Martin said

    Smelling salts? A one-way ticket to Mawson Station more like it!

  39. Possum Comitatus said

    Martin – you’re a champ

  40. blacklight said

    holy crap

    bloodbath awaits

    *buys more bubbly*

  41. gusface said

    howard forgot the first rule of politics
    “you cant fish without a worm”
    silly billy

  42. Lomandra said

    Newspoll: 58/42 Labor/Coalition….

    I’m feeling a tad faint.

  43. Enemy Combatant said

    Getting off on the Watership Down thing.
    One Possum, one bunny, one Hamster. Guess it’s only a matter of time before a wombat rumbles in.
    Current CBet spread: 1.54/2.50
    There has been demonstrable “un-narrowing” in the market in the last 24 hours. Perhaps this is due to significant numbers of punters experiencing “castration-complex” triggered by the authortarian brutality of the live-from-air Worm Chop incident.

    Seriously, the visual contrast between last night’s contestants was as stark as in the legendary Nixon/Kennedy TV debate in the lead up to the 1960 US Presidential election. The vote tally was very close. Many attributed JFK’s win to the fact that Tricky Dicky looked like a bum. Stubble as a fashion statment was still some ways off.

    Here’s an exeprt from newoxxo.com
    “In September and October, Kennedy debated Republican candidate and Vice President Richard Nixon in the first televised U.S. presidential debates in U.S. history. During these programs, Nixon, nursing an injured leg and sporting “five o’clock shadow”, looked tense and uncomfortable, while Kennedy appeared relaxed, leading the huge television audience to deem Kennedy the winner. Radio listeners, however, either thought Nixon had won or that the debates were a draw.Nixon did not wear make-up during the initial debate, unlike Kennedy. The debates are now considered a milestone in American political history–the point at which the medium of television began to play a dominant role in national politics.After the first debate Kennedy’s campaign gained momentum and he pulled slightly ahead of Nixon in most polls. On Tuesday, November 8, Kennedy defeated Nixon in one of the closest presidential elections of the twentieth century.”

    Interestingly, the time between the first debate in September 1960 and poll-day, Nov 7 is as long or longer than the interval between our October 21 Debate and November 24. So the negative perception stuck with enough voters to make a difference, Dem malfeasance in Chicago aside.

    One thing’s for sure, last night Johnny looked like shit.


    As mentioned elsewhere, an image that ALP propagandists could exploit is the audience-shot of the two grinning tory baboons, Subprime $weetie and Dolly Diner dishing their pantomime schtick.

    Ads like, “Do we really want these imbeciles running the country?”, only nicer.

  44. Ian said

    58-42 !! ain’t life grand.

    And just occasionally, the rodents in this world get their just deserts.

  45. Swing Lowe said


    Are you going to be doing another Pollycide entry? Coz it seems mighty appropriate now!!!

  46. Julian Watson said

    23 October 2007

    Latest News Poll (TPP):

    Labor up 2% to 58%

    Coalition down 2% to 42%

    No primary vote given at this stage.

    Poll taken prior to Sunday’s debate.

  47. Julian Watson said

    Roll on 24th Nov indeed.

    I suspect it may yet roll right over the Coalition…

  48. Chris said

    The wday was grey and chilly in london, but sunshine has just broken through…. 58-42 is the best news I’ve had for aabout a month.
    Btw, watching the debate via internet streaming yesterday, I was quite impressed with rudd, It was the first time I’d seen more than 30 secs of him and it seemd to me he pressed Howard when he needed to, remained calm and came across as a suitable PM-in-waiting. Bit of a relief after Latham, Beazley and Crean. Roll on 24th Nov!!

  49. pre-dawn leftist said

    Possum, nice analysis and I think you’re on the right track. I reckon people ARE in fact waiting for Howard with baseball bats, and have been, oh, since workchoices arrived. Rudd has just given voice to something thats long been there.

    In the wake of the mass debate last night, I’ve been fascinated watching various media commentators trying to explain away how the “worm” on channel 9 fell when Howard appeared and rose even before Rudd started talking.

    Seems pretty simple to me: The people hate Howards guts.

    It aint rocket science fellas…

  50. One Eye said

    58 / 42. Wonder what Dennis Shannahan will make of this tomorrow?

  51. Martin said

    Primary Vote 51/38 Labor/Coalition

    Howard Satisfied/Dissatisfied figures 43/46

    Rudd’s Satisfied/Dissatisfied figures 63/21

    Better PM Rudd/Howard 50/37

    Best handling economy Howard/Rudd 46/37

    Best handling national security Howard/Rudd 43/39

    Best handling education Howard/Rudd 28/58

    Best handling health & medicare Howard/Rudd 28/57

  52. Martin said

    Pimary Vote Labor/Coalition 51/38

  53. Martin said

    Better PM Rudd/Howard 50/37

    Best handling economy Howard/Rudd 46/37

    Best handling national security Howard/Rudd 43/39

    Best handling education Howard/Rudd 28/58

    Best handling health and medicare Howard/Rudd 28/57

  54. Possum Comitatus said

    Champ MkII Martin 😉

  55. Possum Comitatus said

    Swing Lowe, there will be one more pollycide series done in the last week.I’ve developed a few models to use to cut through the polling volatility that we’ll see over the next 5 weeks, so in the last week I’ll run the numbers.

  56. The Intellectual Bogan said

    “If the Libs are really going to have any hope in this election then they need to find a place to bury Costello until the voting is over.”

    “How about Philip Ruddock’s present location?”

    Maybe the ALP could rent ’em a couple of square feet in the cupboard I sincerely hope they’ve got Simon Crean locked in.

    Seriously, I thought Howard performed pretty badly (confirmed by the fact that even staunch Lib spruikers aren’t claiming more than a draw), even taking this debate in isolation. Having discussed it with my wife who’s watched previous leaders’ debates, she’s apparently never seen him so hopelessly outclassed.

    And what on earth had Costello and Downer been drinking?

  57. Greenback said

    I thought that it was funny that they acted like the worm fell or rose for Howard & Rudd respectively from the start. It didn’t , just the longer the debate went on the faster the response to both parties happened.

    Towards the end the worm was almost comatose for howard registering almost no movement at all unless he started mentioning something that people just didnt like at which point it would plummet or if he was being positive it would creep up slowly and almost grudgingly.

    The switch to Rudd was dramatic as it launched upwards almost before he started speaking and only stopped when it hit the ceiling or he went negative and then only dipped a bit.

    My personal thought was that that the longer they listened to Howard the less they wanted to and so just stopped and the more dramatic the response to anything they could take offence to.

    This also meant that they were happy to see Rudd if only to get rid of Howard and responded positively to almost anything he said as long as he even sounded positive.

    Also of note was the plummet at the mention or sight of Costello which should be equally worrying to the Libs and they REALLY wouldnt like to see being played alot.

  58. Martin said

    the rodent has buried any reference of Costello from his election pamphlets in Bennelong, according to the Oz…

  59. El Nino said

    Poss – its looking positively pollbludger on this side. Nice work! At risk of (senior) repeating myself. I think the electorate is not waiting for Howard with baseball bats, but with slippers and hot tea (thanks Michael Brissenden). Ignored, like when granddad starts choking on a humbug at Christmas dinner.

  60. Possum Comitatus said

    No wonder Martin – Howard is in enough shit as he is without adding unnecessary electoral poison to the electoral pamphlet mix.

  61. Possum Comitatus said

    El Nino – when the 58 newspoll came out at APEC, I thought it was time to break out the popcorn to watch the fallout (being a connoisseur of political self-immolation) – but this one will have a different feel to it.One of those “bend over and think of England” affairs I reckon.

    They’ll panic, but know that there’s little to be done.

  62. Martin said

    oh the satisfaction of having told a Costello minder face to face, in May: “You guys are toast.”

  63. El Nino said

    Poss – I think we started to see the fallout between Henderson and Bolt tonight. But we will have to wait until after the election for the true popcorn moments.

  64. Niz said


    So apparently Sol Lebovic thinks Economic Management is an absolute must or Rudd can’t win.

  65. adam said

    Enemy combatant @ 43:

    You’re quite right about Nixon v. Kennedy. Marshall McLuhan used this series of debates as a key example of his notions of hot and cool media in his seminal “understanding media”. Nixon is angular – hot:tells you exactly where he stands (Adolf Hitler, a radio star) – while kennedy is soft and rounded on the edges – you have to fill in the blanks (the beatles, there’s one for each of you to possess).

    Quoting Sharon Zechowski: “Kennedy’s televisual victory was due to the fact that he exuded an objective, disinterested, “cool” persona. Nixon, better suited for the “hot” medium of radio, was considered victorious by those who had listened to the debates on radio”.

    The soft-edged, fill-in-his-blanks-yourself challenger wins on tv, while the hard-edged, you-know-what-i-stand-for incumbent retreats as ever to Jonestown. Sound familiar?

  66. Meng said

    Sol’s reasoning, looking for patterns in electoral history, echoes Howard’s assertion that a competent (by his reckoning) government won’t be thrown out during good economic times (by his reckoning). It’s exactly the same reasoning employed by sports commentators, for example, to predict why the State of Origin side can’t recover from a first-game loss to take the series. Well, here’s my contribution: no incumbent Australian prime minister whose surname begins with H has ever been defeated at a general election. Opinion polls be damned!

  67. Jon UK said

    I’ve just seen the Newspoll sample size – a healthy 1700!

    ( … compared with last week’s Westpolls of 400 … )

    Possum, how does that affect (reduce?) the possibility of this poll being an ‘outlier’? Or is it better just to see all these polls within a framework of ‘volatility’?

  68. Adrian said

    Does the worm actually work like that? I thought that there are actually two worms, a Howard worm and a Rudd worm, and when we cut from Howard to Rudd we are actually cutting from one worm to the other. In other words, when it went from a high on Rudd to a low on Howard it wasn’t actually people putting down Howard before he started to talk, but rather it was normalising back down to Howard’s position when he ended his last question (on a low).

  69. otiose said

    liked the jibe that they felt sorry for janette ‘cos ljh couldn’t get the worm up last night. i’m very impressed with the concept of the un-narrowing – we’re going to put you in charge of the gold vault

  70. Harmless Cud Chewer said

    Possum. My statistics is a bit rusty so I’m gonna let you figure this out. What’s the most probable difference between means when you compare the different poll series? Or put another way, is there a statistically significant bias, at least over a few months.

    Reason I ask is that the 98% figure given a 2.5% confidence interval (and rounding too) still looks improbable, if you consider the “real” figure to be your current poll average of 55.13%

    Put another way. Is it worth looking for biases or bias trends in an objective way?

  71. Kit said

    Possum, could the difference between Galaxy & ACN and today’s Newspoll be simply that they were taken at different days in the week? Could it be that the divergent numbers aren’t connected to any particular events or dramatic changes in voters’ minds but simply that the people who are home during a weekday may not be as representative as those home all weekend. Any thoughts?

  72. Neil Cammack said

    “Best handling economy Howard/Rudd 46/37
    “Best handling national security Howard/Rudd 43/39”

    Last night on “Lateline” Gerard Henderson, who looked like a man with an acutely painful case of haemorrhoids as he contemplated the previoiusly unthinkable – the demise of his Dear Leader – was desperately clutching at the thin straw offered by Howard’s continuing lead in these areas. The fact though is that the gap has narrowed dramatically this year. (An interesting case of perceptions trumping reality, as nothing of substance has changed since Beazley’s day.)

    “Lateline” was a scream. Henderson’s visible agony was not being helped one bit by Andrew Bolt’s needling. “C’mon, Gerard, you’re being paid danger money to make a prediction – make one!” (or words very close to that). Bolt was obviously enjoying himself hugely as Henderson weaseled this way and that, unable to state the bleeding obvious. Bolt’s parting shot was along the lines of “OK, we’ll reserve our right to be a smart arse after the event, will we?”

    Henderson’s pitiful adoration of Howard must be due to what Howard symbolises – living proof that boring, grey bespectacled men can achieve national prominence and so repay the schoolyard taunts of yesteryear (perhaps exacerbated in Gerard’s case by the memory of vicious thrashings meted out by the Brothers).

    BTW, Bolt’s prediction was Labor by 10 seats.

  73. Niz said

    LOL Abbott is a great stand up comic…

    Mr Abbott said private political polling delivers a more accurate representation of public opinion.

    “The private polling is somewhat better than the published polls of a week or so back,”


    Apparently walking around the street talking to Liberal voters in Liberal seats gives a better result for the Liberals than Newspoll.

  74. KC said

    Newspoll 58-42, the cleansing is approaching.

    AC and Newspoll are close to the mood in the community, Galaxy can be explained by Briggs joyful exclamation “We’re coming back”.

  75. Rod said

    I can understand Rudd wanting to “keep a lid on it”, but is he actually saying, as reported in the Age and the Australian, that Labour have only won government once since WW2 from opposition? I could have sworn Gough knocked off Billy Big Ears when the latter was PM in the first election I was eligible to vote in, and that a Hawke (or was it a drover’s dog?) did the same to Mal in 1983!



  76. mark-sydney said

    Rod – I just read that ‘quote’ from Rudd too, has to be a typo in (both!?!) those reports as he has said the correct figure of “only twice” in previous comments on Labor winning from opposition

  77. Ptobias said

    Meng #65 – extending your logic, does that mean we can predict Howard will disappear while swimming in the ocean during his next term?

  78. Rod said


    A second piece in The Oz now quotes him as saying twice – http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22633512-601,00.html

    The earlier one – http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22633344-5013469,00.html – when I look again – seems to be a generic news ltd story, though I reached it originally from a link on The Oz website.

    Just by the way, it seems that Swann has accepted Costello’s challenge , and they, and the worm, are to have a debate of their own next Tuesday- http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/10/23/2067041.htm


  79. BlueSkyMining said

    Possum @54 said:
    “I’ve developed a few models to use to cut through the polling volatility that we’ll see over the next 5 weeks, so in the last week I’ll run the numbers”

    Well Possum, I’m sure don’t want to distract you from writing you latest missive but I just couldn’t wait any longer this morning so came looking for your comments on this previous thread…

    ..then I find you teasing those of us with poll-analysis addiction (however recently found) mercilessly by saying you have (at least) 3 NEW MODELS and we wont know how they work FOR ANOTHER 4 WEEKS!!!!

    Now I feel like you have fashioned a psephological voodoo doll and every new poll will be another pin stuck in… AHHH!

    Please Poss, at least give us a few hints of what your models say as we count down the days.

  80. Bushfire Bill said

    Costello and Downer role models:

  81. Burgey said

    Possum, does the 1700 sample for Newspoll mean a lower MOE?


  82. Possum Comitatus said

    Yep Burgey – Newspoll says 2.5% on their site. It’s probably a little bit less than that around the 2.4% level.

    Nope BlueSky – no sneak peaks, it would ruin all the fun!

    BB, the mental comparison of that pic vs the frame of Downer and Costello at the debate is quite disturbing 🙂

  83. Dave Bath said

    Given psephologists love of segments, perhaps “annelid” is more appropriate than “nematode” (unsegmented, usually parasitic, roundworms). Then again, when describing the reaction to Howard and economic theory, at times “platyhelminth” (flat-worm) might be relevant.

  84. […] the worm controversy further highlights not only the Liberal Party’s strong concerns over Howard’s traditionally poor performance in televised debates, but also the deep divisions amongst Australian journalists on whether and how far to accommodate […]

  85. […] Stockholm Syndrome surrounding John Howard is growing as defeat begins to look more inevitable. Things look grim, annihilation is on the […]

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