Rudd attacks on two fronts in war for re-election

Clearly Kevin Rudd 2.0 believes he must outgun two long-standing enemies in 2013, both of whom are well dug in on the electoral battlefield: Tony Abbott, and the ALP.

Clearly Kevin Rudd 2.0 believes he must outgun two long-standing enemies in 2013, both of whom are well dug in on the electoral battlefield: Tony Abbott, and the ALP.

This may sound contradictory, yet it is also the basis of a thoroughly postmodern battle plan now being executed by Field Marshal Rudd: a two-pronged approach designed to both get Tony and get "old" Labor.

That Abbott is Rudd's main opponent is obvious. Hardened by the bitter lessons of his own past, alloyed with his legendary self-belief, a time-poor Rudd is going for broke - aiming straight at his punchy adversary, and hoping to beat him at his own game.

Asylum seeker policy is a case in point: where Julia Gillard always tried to manage the problem out of the news, believing Labor could not combat the sheer cut-through power of Abbott's "stop the boats" mantra, Rudd views that as surrender.

Hence his incendiary claim that Abbott's policy risks diplomatic conflict with Indonesia. And hence, his Howard-esque charge that the Liberal pretender lacks the "ticker" needed to lead if he will not front up in debates on debt, on the carbon "tax", and most explosively, on boats.

Rudd is well on the way to assembling a new inner circle, this time with the welcome addition of a few "grey beards", unlike 2007.

He is also well advanced in mapping out his election strategy which he is doing with the all the precision of a military campaign.

Despite the odds, he believes he can win and that he has two big weapons in his arsenal. First, there is his double-digit lead in the better prime minister stakes, which means he starts as the people's favourite, even if his party doesn't. Second, there is the advantage of incumbency, even for him. This includes the prestige of the office itself, the facilities of a well-resourced bureaucracy, and crucially, the element of surprise on election timing that had been curiously surrendered by Gillard.

If nothing else, Rudd wants to use what time he does have to mess with Abbott's head. Already there are signs that the rejoined contest has spooked some senior Liberals.

Yet Abbott is just half the challenge for Rudd. The other opponent is Labor's inner demons, particularly in NSW where the taint of corruption and cosseted power has pulled the brand under.

A word cloud around the ALP brings up terms like union power, factions, warlords, faceless men, and backstabbing. In the premier state, it gets worse with names such as Eddie Obeid, Craig Thomson, and Ian Macdonald joining terms such as property developers, zoning scandals, dodgy deals, and rorting.

So soiled is the Labor brand that some of its federal MPs and candidates in western Sydney seats are campaigning without mentioning their party.

Rudd's lightning 30-day federal raid on the NSW branch (announced on Thursday) is designed to send a message to voters that Rudd Labor is a different deal altogether. Indeed, if the name "New Labour" had not already been used - and discredited - in the UK, it would be the banner under which his internal reform drive would now be operating.

Convincing or not, Rudd's message to voters in NSW is as blunt as it is risky. It boils down to: "forget Labor, vote Rudd".

Those close to the national executive intervention in NSW concede the option of a longer compliance period was expected but say Rudd wanted to get it done fast so he could achieve at least one thing before pulling the election trigger.

Abbott, on the other hand, says the only way to clean up Labor is to give it a spell in opposition.

This certainly is a postmodern election we're heading for. Both leaders agree that one brand is poison, and are even going out of their way to highlight it.

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