Coalition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott are all smiles at their broadband announcement. But polls show Mr Abbott's popularity pales in comparison to Mr Turnbull's.

All smiles: Coalition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott at their broadband announcement. Photo: Angus Mordant

There is something Tony Abbott needs to stop before the election – and it has nothing to do with boats.

Opinion polling is now the greatest threat to the Opposition Leader.

Abbott has seen close up that the will of the Australian public is no longer confined to being exercised once every three years.

Julia Gillard was thrown overboard by her colleagues for one reason: her deep and unshakeable unpopularity.

Voters got their way before September 14 and now they appear to have someone just as unpopular, according to years of polling, in their sights.

The message from Friday's ReachTel poll for the Seven Network is that the public wants a hard-fought election – and quite possibly to dump Labor from office as punishment for six self-indulgent years – but that outcome does not seem to involve Abbott.

Malcolm Turnbull's advantage over Abbott as preferred Liberal leader is well established but his crushing – almost embarrassing – lead over Kevin Rudd should make Coalition strategists and the Liberal backbench sit up and think.

Since the return of Rudd, the line from backroom Liberals is that a tightening of the polls was inevitable and the Abbott-Rudd match up was always going to be tough.

But at 65:35 (on preferred prime minister), Turnbull's potential landslide lead over Rudd cannot be ignored.

Still, the minute-to-midnight timing in the election cycle and the Liberal Party's need to preserve its main line of attack against Labor's leadership merry-go-round make a change exceedingly unlikely.

The last thing Abbott needs is a threat from behind just as he is being outboxed by his official opponent.

He has appeared rattled this week.

Abbott's insistence that an emissions trading scheme is a ''so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one'' was rightly slammed as a return to the ''politics of climate denial and scepticism'' and a clear message to the rusted on conservative base.

The overreach continued when he implored Rudd to not ''internationalise'' – of all the things – the issue of refugees.

The blunt instrument Abbott used to kill Gillard is not making a dent against Rudd.

Voters appear to recognise this and they want to make election 2013 a fairer fight.

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