Private enmity rarely trumps personal ambition. If Cunliffe had delivered on the promise of a more sure-footed leadership, a more organised Opposition, and a clearer direction, the doubters would have become converts.
But Cunliffe has often been his own worst enemy. He has been too loose with details too often and he has tried to style his leadership around American and British-style political oratory. In the New Zealand context, where we are used to our politicians being of the plain Jane variety, there is a fine line between soaring oratory and coming across as fake.
Can Cunliffe use the final few weeks to turn things around? He has to use them to embark on a massive charm offensive with the New Zealand public.
Policy is not the problem. Labour has released a wealth of policy which shows it has a credible alternative plan for government. But voters either don’t know or don’t like David Cunliffe.
Winning now comes down to one simple recipe. Cunliffe has to show them that he is someone they can like and trust.
That is possible, but it takes time. His biggest opportunity is probably the leaders debates, but I suspect he’ll go very aggressive and try and paint Key as an uncaring rich prick, which ironically may hurt him more.
The other issue is that after 15 years he hasn’t been able to convince most of his colleagues to like or trust him, so can he get the public to do the same in 63 days?