<em>Illustration: michaelmucci.com</em>

Illustration: michaelmucci.com

The mood in the Prime Minister's office must feel like the leader's bunker in Berlin in April 1945, when the muffled sounds of Russian artillery could only be avoided in the bomb-proof war room as the leader ordered the deployment of armoured divisions that no longer existed.

Ashen generals listen in silence knowing that all they have to defend their domain against a legion of hostiles is a dispirited Labor caucus and three groups with little credibility outside their inner-city strongholds: the Greens, Get-Up! and union-funded propaganda.

Several questions must occupy the mind of every politician arriving in Canberra today, and all their staffers and camp followers, and every member of the Canberra press gallery, and every political junkie.

Will the people in the leader's bunker still be politically alive by Thursday? Will a coup take place this week after everyone has gathered for the final sitting of Parliament?

Will a new leader decide to call an immediate election and hope for a halo of novelty and surprise? Or will a new leader postpone the reckoning for as long as possible by discarding the September 14 election date and waiting until November 30, providing five months to wage an offensive breakout?

Or will the Labor caucus decide the leadership of Kevin Rudd is a bankrupt force, a false option, an option the electorate would rightly treat as a metaphor of panic, desperation, cynicism and impotence?

The sound of approaching fire is personified by the opinion polls, now coming thick and fast as the media deploys the new technology of insecurity: so-called robopolls, the automated, cheaper, faster method of testing the state of the battlefields in the marginal electorates. The entire government now lives on the margins.

The polls are bringing the sound of enemy advance ever closer. On Saturday, a poll by Reachtel, the best known of the automated polls, found the federal government would lose all four of its seats in Tasmania with a brutal 16 per cent swing against Labor. In the seat of Bass, Labor's primary vote has sunk to 26 per cent, with the Liberals' at 57 per cent.

To this we can add our own latest Nielsen poll, published today, which finds that national support for Labor has shrunk back to a 29 per cent primary vote, portending a disastrous 57 per cent to 43 per cent defeat, on a two-party preferred basis, with a national 7 per cent swing against the government. With an election less than 13 weeks away, the polls have never recorded a shift in fortunes sufficient to turn this around. Not even close.

Even worse news for the bunker: disapproval of the Prime Minister's performance has spiked to an all-time high of 61 per cent. The gap between Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister has grown to 50 per cent to 41 per cent in favour of Abbott.

All these figures are even more dire for Gillard and Labor in the fundamentally crucial battleground of NSW, where the gap in the two-party preferred vote has opened into a chasm for Labor: a 61 per cent to 39 per cent lead for the Coalition. It is even worse in the other crucial battlefield, Queensland, a yawning 63 per cent to 37 per cent chasm in the two-party preferred vote in favour of the Coalition.

Accompanying the grim explosions of the polls is the scatter-bombing of media hyperbole, which magnifies Labor's losses in the ground war. My favourite rhetoric of the past week came from political correspondent Simon Benson of the The Daily Telegraph: ''If this Parliament were a novel, it would be Cormac McCarthy's The Road - a post-apocalyptic nightmare of a civilised society descending into eternal darkness while humans wander a wasteland eating each other.''

The latest Nielsen poll confirms that Gillard's gender politics has, rightfully, been a disaster. All the outrage about the misogyny of the Opposition leadership, overwhelmed by an abundance of contrary evidence, has been self-defeating.

None of the advocates of the misogyny outrage ever sought to discredit the tsunami of snickering and ridicule about, and hundreds of caricatures of, Abbott in Speedos, his ''budgie smugglers'', as if being a surf lifesaver, and wearing the uniform, was some sort of joke.

I have never seen a gender divide like the one that now exists in Australian politics as a direct result of a cynical Prime Minister systematically and methodically insulting men and debasing feminism by invoking gender as a weapon to make false claims and cynical smokescreens. The result is as predictable as it is self-annihilating.

Australian men, by an overwhelming majority, are waiting to throw Gillard out of office if she is still leader on September 14. The gender gap is astounding. Labor's primary vote among men has shrunk to 24 per cent, while support for the Coalition among men has risen to 52 per cent. Women, too, have turned away. The Coalition enjoys a 43 per cent to 34 per cent lead over Labor among women voters.

The implosion of the male vote for Labor, and the disaster unfolding for the party in Queensland, account for the rise of the living dead, Kevin Rudd.

But Rudd's supposed popularity is a myth, like the supposed massive public outrage and support for Gough Whitlam after he was sacked in 1975. When the electorate was given a chance to vote, it destroyed Whitlam.

Or the myth of Gillard's surging popularity after her ''misogyny'' speech. It sent the left-dominated Twittersphere into a froth of delight but in the other 96 per cent of the country it was a passing squall. Julia ''Misogyny'' Gillard or Kevin ''Asylum'' Rudd? Labor can choose its poison.

Twitter: @Paul_Sheehan_

Correction: The original version of this story said the election could be postponed until early 2014. The latest possible date is November 30.