If the party believes it can win by an incremental improvement, replacing an inarticulate but decent man with a safe pair of hands who can front John Key without making any major slips, then it will choose Grant Robertson.
If it thinks it just needs to remove the negative and turn the focus back on the policy mix and the broader front bench, aiming to pick up a percentage point or five to allow it to form a Left-wing government, in harness with the Greens on 10-14 per cent, then the Wellington Central candidate is its man.
But if it thinks it needs to take risks, that whatever the policy mix a showman, an impresario is needed, then it will opt for David Cunliffe.
If it thinks a slow and steady climb is beyond it and the Labour Party needs a jolt, a risk – even one that could backfire and kill off its chance of a victory in 2014 – then the MP for New Lynn is the “peacock or feather duster” option it will choose.
This is pretty much what I have said also. Robertson is the safer option, but Cunliffe has greater potential reward – and risk.
Mr Cunliffe has clearly made the early running.
While Mr Robertson chose a low-key launch, including an interview in a strangely empty studio, and the third wheel Shane Jones took an even more random approach, Mr Cunliffe went for the doctor.
His launch, with cheering fans, his team of supporting MPs and a tub- thumping speech, could not have made the risks and rewards of choosing Mr Cunliffe clearer.
It made a far greater impact and will have energised his supporters, including his social media crew.
But it sailed dangerously close, if not over, the line between upbeat hoopla and a cringeworthy revival meeting lacking authenticity.
What you thought of the launch probably varied by your interest in politics.
To hardcore left activists, the launch was the Messiah in action. They loved seeing the chosen one in action. And there is a fairly large segment of the NZ population that would respond to a forceful charismatic speaker saying he is going to tax the rich and send the PM off to Hawaii.
To people who are very actively involved in politics (journalists, MPs, staff, former staff) it was somewhere between cringeworthy and hideous, and as Small says shows the risk of Cunliffe.
What is unknown is how it would go down with those who are not activists or “beltway” but just families at home not too happy with the Government and wondering if there is a better alternative.
My feeling is that it wouldn’t go down that well, or at least not if done to that extreme. However a more toned down version could well resonate.
Cunliffe is many things, and one of them is intelligent and he learns from his mistakes. I doubt we’d see a repeat of his campaign launch, hence why I think he is still Labour’s best bet for them.
However as Small says, he is a risk. The infamous speech at the Avondale Markets is a reminder that he can and does over-extend.Tags: David Cunliffe, Grant Robertson, Labour Leadership, Vernon Small