I’d been holding back on a new Victorian election post as I’d been anticipating a new Fairfax-Ipsos poll from The Age – but so far at least, no dice. So here’s a situation report on events since the weekend:

• Electorate-level polls conducted last week by the Essential Research on behalf of the Victorian Trades Hall Council found Labor with solid leads in three key marginal seats. In Bellarine, where a 1.4% Labor margin at the 2010 election has been turned into a 2.5% Liberal margin by the redistribution, Labor was credited with a 55-45 lead on two-party preferred and 41-37 on the primary vote. In Frankston, Labor led 40% to 35% on the primary vote and 54-46 on two-party preferred, compared with a post-redistribution Liberal margin of 0.4%. Things were tighter in Mordialloc, with the Liberals leading 41% to 39% on the primary vote. However, Labor had a 52-48 lead on two-party preferred, compared with an existing Liberal margin of 1.5%.

• Roy Morgan evidently plans to conduct weekly SMS polls through the campaign, the second such giving Labor a lead of 53.5-46.5 (up from 52.5-47.5 last week) from primary votes of 36% for Labor (up two) and 38% for the Coalition (up half a point), with the Greens steady on a still implausible 18.5%. The poll was conducted Friday to Monday from a sample of 1847.

• Despite all that, the Coalition seems more than hopeful that the negative advertising blitz it unleashed this week is proving a turning point. The Australian today reports that “support for the Napthine government is starting to increase for the first time in many months”, to the extent that “senior Liberal figures believe the most likely outcome at the election will be either a small government majority or a small Labor majority”. This is said to be corroborated by the internal polling of both parties (although the federal Liberals don’t seem to have been CC’d on the memo, with Patricia Karvelas in The Australian reporting yesterday that most consider the government to be headed for defeat).

• Liberal optimism notwithstanding, The Australian’s report today suggests it is recognised that the government continues to face a tough battle in the crucial “sandbelt” seats of Bentleigh, Mordialloc, Carrum and Frankston. However, a more bullish picture of their prospects was provided by a report on Sunday from James Campbell of the Herald-Sun. Labor sources were cited claiming to be ahead in Bentleigh, “but not by so much as you would put down your glasses”. Mordialloc was deemed by both sides to be too close to call, and the Liberals were actively “confident” about Carrum. However, it appeared to be agreed that Labor was ahead in Frankston. For what little it’s likely to be worth to them, Annika Smethurst of the Herald-Sun reports that Geoff Shaw is likely to direct his preferences to the Liberals.

• The election’s secondary metropolitan flashpoint is the outer north-eastern duo of Yan Yean and Eltham, where Labor has respectively been weakened by redistribution and the retirement of a sitting member. According to today’s report in The Australian, the Liberals believe themselves to be competitive or better in both seats. However, James Campbell’s Herald-Sun report said Labor “swears it will hold Yan Yean”, about which the Liberals were “hopeful but not overly” (likewise the case for Cranbourne on Melbourne’s south-eastern fringe).

• The Coalition conducted its campaign launch in Ballarat on Sunday, signalling hopes of snaring not only the western regional seat of Ripon, where redistribution and the retirement of Labor member Joe Helper have placed them in the box seat, but also Wendouree and Buninyong (known pre-redistribution as Ballarat West and Ballarat East). However, a Liberal source cited by James Campbell’s report said “only Ripon is looking likely with the other two ‘looking hard’“.

• James Campbell also reported that “in Geelong both sides think the most likely outcome is no change”, which I take to suggest that Labor will hold Bellarine but fall short in South Barwon.

• In my previous instalment, I related media reports of polling for the Greens by Lonergan Research showing them leading in Melbourne and Richmond. Full results have been published on the party website: here for Melbourne, and here for Richmond.

• Here’s a taste of that negative Liberal advertising – this in relation to Labor’s CFMEU links (and here’s another concerning the Wonthaggi desalination plant, which enjoyed a helpful front page tie-in from the Herald-Sun on Monday). Also, for the sake of balance, a topical item for the Ballarat market from Labor.

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