The Howard government's attacks on Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd's integrity have proved a spectacular "own goal", says a veteran political analyst.
Former ALP pollster Rod Cameron says his polling of focus groups shows the government's assault on Mr Rudd's character in recent weeks has left voters unimpressed.
The government has been targeting Mr Rudd over his meetings two years ago with disgraced former West Australian premier Brian Burke.
Health Minister Tony Abbott went further on Wednesday, labelling Mr Rudd "slippery" and accusing him of embellishing the events surrounding his father's death in 1969, when the opposition leader was aged 11.
Mr Cameron said the personal attacks had failed to resonate with voters and had rebounded on Prime Minister John Howard.
"They are looking in bewilderment at this mudslinging issue. They hate mudslinging, they hate it with a passion," Mr Cameron told ABC television.
"They don't understand what the issue is all about and therefore it is rebounding on John Howard's character.
"The prime minister has lost the last two weeks in a significant way, and I don't think it will be much longer before they drop this whole mudslinging issue entirely.
"It's very much an own goal."
An ACNielsen poll on Monday appeared to show the government's mudslinging had backfired, with the survey revealing increased levels of support for Mr Rudd and Labor.
Mr Cameron said Mr Howard had tried to turn the heat on Mr Rudd's character after failing to gain the ascendancy on environmental issues and national security.
But having faltered in the character assault, the prime minister would try to target Mr Rudd on economic management, Mr Cameron predicted.
"That's why the last two weeks have been so important," he said.
"John Howard has thrown the kitchen sink at Kevin Rudd trying to do what he did to Mark Latham - destroy the man's character.
"All (Mr Howard) was doing was reinforcing the electorate's view - they knew Mark Latham was a nutter.
"He's trying to invent something with Kevin Rudd and he's singularly failed."