Conventional wisdom suggests parties don’t win elections with primary votes south of forty percent ensuring the Government won’t have missed Galaxy grave-digging for them with a threatening L/NP thirty-three to start this week.

Or Ipsos invidiously sharing a thankless thirty-seven.

Despite this the conniption producing Newspoll thundering thirty-eight was likely a furniture-saving relief as Coalition polling trends go.

Essential was an enervating theme at thirty-eight while Morgan morosely completed the pre-campaign polling news with a thoughtless thirty-seven for Government morale.

Which is why many will predict the Morrison-McCormack Coalition pulling a primary vote beginning with three will ensure they’re toast with little to prevent the removalists backing their truck up to the Lodge shortly after the third Saturday this May.

While the standard polling caveat for consumers applies, that swings will not be uniform across Australian electorates, here in this Nationals’ stronghold, candidate Pat Conaghan won’t be looking for encouragement from Twitter’s voting ghost as he eyes the other three declared candidates today, Day Zero of the official campaign.

In the absence of a Federal winning-level poll result to lift the local Nationals’ campaign, the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack’s visit on Monday to assist Conaghan open his Coffs Harbour campaign office might be considered in retrospect a cold Canberra consolation.

Anticipation of Day Zero saw preliminary shots exchanged between campaigns earlier this week. Trying to generate interest much less momentum, independent candidate Rob Oakeshott sidled up to the Gladstone Climate Commitment as saviour-in-chief sending reporters seeking comment from the other candidates.

Addressing the Gladstone Hub east of Frederickton, Oakeshott presented his commitment as part of his climate change blueprint and environmental platform advocating policy certainty for private investors. This sentiment was praised by Macleay Living Sustainably (MLS) spokesperson Genevieve Furber seemingly ready to bury Australia’s coal industry tomorrow if she had her choice.

Not to let the moment pass him by, Labor candidate Andrew Woodward did respond, claiming Oakeshott’s plan supports much of what Labor puts forward without the substance. The current sitting member Luke Hartsuyker had already raised concerns at the week’s outset that Oakeshott was a sham independent candidate and that voting for Oakeshott would deliver a Shorten Government and Shorten policies. Conaghan and Lex Stewart of United Australia Party seem to have thought better about their own rejoinders on the subject.

Not to be constrained by local media coverage, the candidates promote and parry on social media like the rest of Australia. Without the similar benefit of a Shorten visit, Woodward stated again on his internet profiles that the Coffs Bypass was his driving issue for the electorate this May, taking up where the NSW election had left off. We also enjoy smartphone screenshots of Group-chat comments tweeted, like the one below by Woodward goading Oakeshott to commit to ruling out supporting a Coalition government, amusingly allowing the candidates new ways to needle each other in 2019 tactics:

In the above Group-chat Oakeshott managed to remain coy about who he would support if a minority government occurred again, positioning himself as a ‘true’ independent, Cathy McGowan style. However, one suspects he will not be such a paragon of independence when preferences are decided if past practice is any indication. 

But preference deals are still weeks away while early skirmishing on electric vehicles is all the go. Seasoned first-hand experience growing up in wilder parts than the average Comcar route around State Circle, where men looked like Rodney Marsh and David Boone and imagined bowling and charming the women-folk with the swagger of Denis Lillee, might be fading memories for some us, it does seem ‘real men’ (read junior high school boys from memory) might still especially covet ferrets and Hiluxs to the delight of Prime Ministers.

I’m not sure any of the candidates here in Cowper have savoured the delights of a Deni Ute Muster, however they will undoubtedly be tuning in to the sensitivities of ute-owning electors even more than usual. Woodward was seen leading the pack in thrilling to Toyota’s intention to sell electric Hiluxs by 2025, after outing himself as a hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV owner with all the good grace of a Bellingen resident.

Notwithstanding the inestimable political observer Annabel Crabb suggesting all this truck talk might be a little gendered dog-whistling, a small informal survey within this electorate’s preference for towing-rated horsepower, found good feminine fertile ground.

Local high school teacher Bree, year ten student Georgie and her thriving small business-owning mother Betty, Masters educated accountant Emily, stable-hand Rah, and veterinary nurse Caitlin would all be part of Cowper’s automotive-owning audience. They and thoroughbred trainer and owner Sally Taylor, who narrowly missed a win at Grafton last week with some old school horsepower, are mostly found in their Fords, Toyotas, Nissan and VW trucks and utes out by the Urumbilum River where they reign several times a week and the odd Y-chromosome type is little more than farm-hand.

Caring for horses as much as these women, they’re not going to be found in the standard hair-dresser’s car of this correspondent when managing their horse-floats or feed. Whether this week’s Ute-scare will help these erstwhile voters decide on May 18th is just part of the ride we’re all on over the next six weeks as Cowper’s four current candidates, and any new ones, seek to find out.