One of the odd things about this campaign has been Steven Joyce’s super-prominent role in it. John Key has been out of the country for most of the by-election and Joyce has stepped in and filled the vacuum, evidently deciding that his candidate wasn’t up to the task.
Which was an odd call. A by-election run on local issues is a weird time for a party strategist from outside the electorate to step out of the shadows and make it really pointedly evident that his candidate is a total puppet. It’s a decision that – I think – has nothing to do with strategy and everything to do with psychology. It must be frustrating for Joyce to keep winning election campaigns and then have Key receive all the credit. This time, Joyce must have thought, I’ll make them see that I’m the mastermind who delivers the victories. Which is fine if that’s what he does on Saturday, but if they lose then Joyce’s rather self-indulgent decision to become the face of the campaign will be one of the reasons behind the defeat.