If you want to meet Anthony Albanese, go to the airport.
That's where you'll find him, wearing a black face mask with a little white rabbit on it - yeah, "go, Rabbitohs!" - waiting for a plane to take him to the next marginal seat, where he'll bump elbows with, listen to, and nod furiously in agreement with just as many potential swinging voters as he possibly can.
Not inspiring, perhaps, but a solid plan. It echoes the push that secured Joe Biden the White House, and harnesses the very weakness, the ordinariness, that might otherwise be insurmountable.
It's hard to find the right tone when it comes to balancing criticism of the government with hope for the future. A strident campaign wears thin very quickly; just take Victoria's persistently red-faced and angry Opposition Leader, Michael O'Brien.
Labor can see two clear paths to victory at the next election. One, the preferred route travelled by Kevin Rudd and Gough Whitlam, embraces the big platform and leads voters enthusiastically to the ballot box through the television, with an articulation of a clear vision for the future. As it happens, that was also the road taken by Bill Shorten at the last poll.
The other path, taken by Bob Hawke, is different. Its precondition is disillusionment with the incumbent, so there's one tick there already. The second requirement is for the leader to build personal trust with voters in marginal seats.
That's the significance of the rabbit on Albanese's face mask. It supposedly anchors his authenticity as a longtime supporter (and former board member) of the "outsider" team. It's a big advance on Scott Morrison using the national flag as a hankie - and that's the point. The mascot, like his nickname, "Albo", bolsters his authenticity. When the premiership match comes, the hope is that voters will feel comfortable enough to give the guy a run.
It's a plausible strategy for winning the keys to The Lodge. It simply requires bumping a lot of people's elbows to get there, and this is the time to do it. There's nothing Albanese can do in lockdown apart from appear on television and repeat what everyone knows, what he's already said multiple times before: "Morrison had two jobs this pandemic, blah, blah, blah."
People don't get the chance to meet politicians up close, so when they do it's showbiz time! Everyone feels special, and that's why (except for rusted-on supporters of either side) it's a good way of converting waverers. If they feel let down by the incumbent, voters are prepared to be persuaded. This stuff might not enthuse the true believers, but Albanese already has their votes. He's working on swingers in the marginal seats.
Travelling, meeting, greeting; then travelling, meeting and greeting again. It's so close but there are only so many marginals - and Albanese's visiting as many as he can before the next lockdown.
- Nicholas Stuart is a Canberra writer and a regular columnist.