The first day of official campaigning on Monday was always going to be tough for Scott Morrison. The PM, who apparently erred on the weekend by saying Alan Tudge was still in his cabinet, was starting on the backfoot and he knew it.
That's why, when asked about Mr Tudge's status on breakfast television, he doubled down by saying the former education minister had been cleared of any wrongdoing and was still "technically" a member of the cabinet despite having stepped aside from his portfolio and relinquishing his ministerial salary.
Then, when asked why Mr Tudge's former staffer and lover Rachelle Miller had reportedly received a $500,000 tax-payer funded payout if there had been no impropriety, he said that was a departmental matter that had nothing to do with him.
It was, all things considered, about as messy as it gets.
But then, presumably to Mr Morrison's surprise and delight, his adversary Anthony Albanese galloped in to the rescue. While campaigning in Tasmania the Opposition Leader was asked the by now familiar questions about the price of bread, of petrol and so on.
While Labor's working class man passed with flying colours on consumer staples - even though petrol is now well down on the $2.20 it cost when he last filled his tank - he stumbled badly when asked about the Reserve Bank cash rate and the unemployment rate.
Mr Albanese didn't know the first (it's been sitting at 0.1 per cent since the start of the pandemic) and guessed badly on the second. His 5.4 per cent estimate was well above the actual figure of four per cent.
It was a classic "gotcha" moment. And, given the efforts the ALP is going to in order to convince voters it is across the economic brief, a significant one.
While Mr Albanese and his minders quickly regrouped by trying to spin the Opposition Leader's subsequent admission that he was human and that he had made a mistake as evidence of honesty and a willingness to accept responsibility that hasn't helped much.
Given the inherent risibility of this is on a par with any of the PM's attempts to spin sow's ears into silk purses it exposes the Opposition Leader to accusations he and Mr Morrison are cut from the same cloth.
Meanwhile, as has so often been the case, a relatively trivial series of unfortunate events has deflected attention from the serious questions voters want answered before they go to the polls.
One of these, given the gap between the government and the opposition has narrowed to 6 per cent, is what will happen in the event of a hung parliament? How, for example, would the Climate 200 sponsored candidates vote? Would they return an incumbent government - as Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott did in 2010 - or would they back Labor?
What price would the Greens demand to either form a coalition with the ALP or to back in a Labor government? Minor parties and independents are going to have a big influence on May 21. Support for the Greens is running at 10 per cent, Clive Palmer's United Australia Party at 4 per cent, One Nation at 3 per cent and "others" at 10 per cent. One in four voters won't be casting a primary vote for either the Coalition or the ALP.
Mr Albanese is now being exposed to the same incandescent media scrutiny Mr Morrison has been dealing with for years. A big part of the LNP's strategy has been based on the possibility he could crumble under that kind of pressure.
While Monday's events are far from definitive they do suggest Mr Albanese is going to have lift his game.
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