It is quite something when the most powerful man in the country is forced to give over his election-opening address to a wan defence of his government's pandemic missteps.
Acknowledging through gritted teeth at the National Press Club the "understandable frustrations" of ordinary Australians, a politically cornered Scott Morrison served up a wilting word-salad of fudges and excuses.
Yet there was little style, and even less contrition. These were "boyfriend's apologies", directed at your feelings rather than his faults, and pleading all the while that he had done his best, that other countries had done worse, and that his government had actually saved lives.
Conceding only when pushed that he wished he had handed the vaccine program to Lieutenant-General John Frewen earlier (a classic Clayton's apology-cum-chest thump) the speech's tone flickered between legitimising voter anger and an almost crazy-brave sense of telling you you've never had it so good.
Heaving under the weight of accumulated errors, the nationally broadcast set-piece was virtually over by the time he turned to what voters would get this year if they give the Coalition a fourth term.
That's almost half an hour before he got onto jobs and future economic development - his party's supposed raison d'être - pledging to get unemployment so low it would have "a three in front of it".
That's not nothing, but it is damned close. First, it is a projection rather than an achievement. Second, it is a pandemic consequence - an otherwise bullish goal which in this case flags a sharpening labour shortage from closed borders and other COVID difficulties.
Tellingly, even this key element of the speech elicited almost no enthusiasm from a full-capacity Press Club audience stacked with Coalition ministers, MPs, staffers, and assorted friendlies.
Liberals sat grim-faced.
If front- and backbench morale is any guide to Morrison's ability to turn things around 2019-style, then he is in more trouble than even the poor public poll ratings suggest.
The government's political problem is that the Morrison who was unknown in 2019 is now very well known in 2022. As a result, the government is weighed down by its leader. A leader who has taken them precisely nowhere.
After nigh on a decade, it has no reform legacy to speak of and can only point to an economy that has come at the cost of huge stimulus spending. All of it late, some of it wasted.
As Press Club addresses go, a sitting prime minister has never looked flatter, nor his audience more subdued.
There is still room for an unlikely recovery, but the contrast with the week before - when Anthony Albanese got the election ball rolling - was plain.
Fifty years on from Gough Whitlam's game-changing "It's Time" election win, there is a growing sense around the usually bullish Morrison that even his colleagues now realise it's time.
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