No longer the bellwether electorate, Eden-Monaro is shaping up as a bitter three-cornered fight at the next election, sparked by growing Liberal-National Coalition tensions.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Nationals' federal director Ben Hindmarsh did little to dampen speculation the party would run a candidate in the NSW seat surrounding the ACT on Thursday, potentially pitting a candidate against their Coalition partners the Liberals and Labor incumbent Mike Kelly.
Mr Hindmarsh visited the electorate this week and talked up the Nationals' chances, coming after Nationals' MPs spoke out in frustration over Liberal infighting between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his predecessor Tony Abbott.
A Nationals bid for the electorate would see the parties' first three-way fight there since 1993.
On Thursday, Mr Joyce stressed the secret Coalition agreement allowed either party to contest Labor-held seats, but said the Nationals were yet to decide if they'd run a candidate at the election, expected sometime between late 2018 and 2019.
He said this week the party would "ride this as hard as we can".
"I'd look at both candidates and see which, you know, which candidate is most likely to win and make a logical decision then," Mr Joyce told Sky News.
Mr Hindmarsh didn't answer questions about Eden-Monaro but said preselection decisions were yet to be made.
"We have just had our one-year anniversary since the last election, we are focused on governing and when the time comes the Nationals and Liberals will be working together in coalition to defeat Labor, because the biggest risk to the regions is a reckless Bill Shorten Labor government that panders to inner-city Greens," he said.
Former Liberal MP Peter Hendy is not expected to recontest Eden-Monaro, but reportedly could put his hand up for preselection for the Sydney seat of Bennelong or seek a NSW Senate spot.
In May, Dr Hendy quit Malcolm Turnbull's parliamentary office where he'd been employed as the Prime Minister's chief economic adviser.
His loss to Dr Kelly, who held the seat until 2013, ended the seat's more than 40-year status as a bellwether for the party which formed government.
Dr Hendy was criticised for a lacklustre campaign and famously hosted the Liberal MPs plotting to remove Mr Abbott in 2015. He lost the seat in a 5.8 per cent swing to Labor.
Labor's shadow assistant minister for Defence Industry, Dr Kelly said the early maneuverings pointed to an election next year.
"It's something I've expected for a number of years," he said. "The Nationals have always believed they should be running a candidate in Eden-Monaro. The angst that has grown up came to a head during the Hendy time here."
He said how a potential three-way race would play out in voting was uncertain.
"I think the big differences will be in the resources it will divide. I think so many people are angry with the Liberal Party, maybe it will see people cross over to support me via the Nationals."