In keeping with sporting metaphors, in the fight for the Lodge, keep your eyes on the undercard match-up between Peter Garrett and Malcolm Turnbull.
Rudd and Howard's fight will be oh-so-cautious. Both will keep their distance, preferring the staged and heavily refereed engagements over anything bare-knuckled. Control of the ring is their objective and already Rudd seems to have the upper-hand as Howard's distracted by the constant movements in his corner. Garrett and Turnbull on the other hand are willing and eager - both are used to media attention and used to winning. They'll wade in, confident of their training and tactics and not in the least bit wary of their opponent.
But it's not just the protagonists that make this an interesting match-up, it's also the issue; sustainability. Five rate rises since the last election and doubts about AWAs have the Howard-government on the backfoot. The Liberal party's moves on water, on clean-coal and on carbon sinks are all designed to bloster their bona fides on sustainability without the need for compromise. Howard's constant message on Kyoto has been it'd costs Australian jobs and therefore he'll not sign - Turnbull will struggle with this (witness the disagreement with Stern) Labor's policy is to ratify Kyoto, but this presents problems in a number of key seats where there's a risk of job-losses (remember Latham's* ham-fisted management of forestry policy cost them two Tasmanian seats).
This election will be compelling. It'll go to the judges for sure; expect no knock-out punch this time, no Tampa nor interest rate scaremongering. This will be a close points decision and in the early rounds at least, I've got the ALP ahead.
*Thinking about Latham's post-election meltdown, I'm reminded of Oliver McCall's breakdown in his 1997 fight with Lennox Lewis. Bonus points for other obvious comparisons (no points for rope-a-dope, it's too obvious).
5 days ago