National MP Judith Collins is tempering talk of a leadership coup after National's worst result in our Newshub Reid-Research Poll in over a decade.
Despite more New Zealanders wanting Collins as Prime Minister than Simon Brides, she's pledging loyalty to him... for now.
- Judith Collins outstrips Simon Bridges as preferred PM
- Poll: National nosedives into dreaded 30s, could trigger leadership coup
- Opinion: The rot has set in for Simon Bridges
"These things are always a matter for Caucus," Collins told Newshub on Monday. She said the National Party caucus "obviously" hasn't chosen her.
But perhaps the country has.
The Newshub Reid-Research Poll found that 7.1 percent of New Zealanders prefer Collins as Prime Minister, outstripping her leader who was on 4.2 percent - the lowest for an Opposition leader ever in our poll.
Collins said it's "nice" that voters seem to like her.
When presented with the idea that Kiwis like her better than Bridges, she said: "Well, I'm sure they just need to get to know him a bit more."
Bridges has been leader of National for 16 months, dragging the party down to its worst poll result since 2005.
"It's a tough job and whoever has the job - Simon has it at the moment - needs a lot of support from us," Collins said.
The National MP is striking a very different tone from a month and a half ago.
When asked at the time if she could rule out a leadership bid, she coyly told Newshub: "I'm not doing anything at the moment - certainly not today."
Newshub understands National MPs are talking to Collins - throwing their weight behind her, behind the scenes.
Collins said people "generally talk about all sorts of things" but said she would "never disclose what they talk to me about because otherwise they won't talk to me".
She added: "I also think it's important we focus on what matters."
Bridges turned down Newshub's request for an interview on Monday, but yesterday he dug-in.
He said "without any doubt" he would still be leader at the next election.
Collins, when asked if she would prefer to be leader and who would do a better job, said it's not up to her.
"It's never up to me, obviously, and my view is that [Bridges] has just got to, like every one of us, be focused on what matters to people."
Constant speculation about leadership can be just as damaging as devastating polls.