Newshub Political Editor Tova O'Brien says the end of Simon Bridges' leadership is "nigh", while former National Party President Michelle Boag is giving him two weeks.
Speculation about Bridges' future as the National Party leader is heating up once again on the back of a disastrous poll for the party, which is the largest in Parliament and received about 44 percent of the vote at the 2017 election.
The Newshub-Reid-Research poll revealed on Monday night shows National on only 30.6 percent, while Labour is sky-high on 56.5 percent. The Greens trail on 5.5 percent while New Zealand First is on 2.7 percent.
Bridges is confident in his leadership, telling Newshub that the Government has received "wall to wall" coverage over the last few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
O'Brien says Bridges was previously safe from a coup due to the high National Party numbers. Since the party lost power in 2017, they have hovered around the 40s in public polls. But now with the party plummeting, MPs are sharpening their knives.
"Before he was able to hold onto the National Party vote, but with the party vote now plummeting, that is when he is in real dire straits. The end of his leadership is nigh," the political editor told The AM Show.
"People have been doing the numbers and saying they have not been doing the numbers for the last couple of weeks."
With the caucus understood not to have seen any internal polls - which Bridges won't talk to the media about - since February, MPs have been waiting for public polling to validate their concerns.
"They have really been waiting for this moment. MPs who normally talk to us on the quiet as protective sources, anonymously, they were brazenly coming into our office in front of strangers to them, talking about the leadership, talking about whether he would be rolled, talking about how they were not doing the numbers when they were quite clearly doing the numbers, but they were waiting for these numbers," O'Brien said.
"These numbers are bad news for Bridges. They don't get any worse."
Labour could govern alone on the current numbers, but that may change the closer we get to the September 19 election as the economic repercussions of COVID-19 and the lockdown hit hard. But either way, Ardern remains extremely popular.
In Newshub's latest preferred Prime Minister poll, Ardern received support by 59.5 percent of respondents, compared to 4.5 percent for Bridges and 3.1 percent to National MP Judith Collins.
Who would take the reins in place of Bridges is the big question playing on MPs minds as it would entail going up against Ardern.
"That could be the one thing that saves him, the idea of throwing yourself on a sacrificial altar and losing an election. But MPs just don't think like that. They don't go into an election to lose. None of those guys are thinking like that," O'Brien said.
"They are thinking even if they can increase the vote a little bit, they will be able to potentially hold onto the leadership after the election, even if they lose."
But O'Brien doesn't see Bridges falling on his sword similarly to what Andrew Little did for Labour prior to the 2017 election. Bridges has successfully seen off leadership rumours before and got through the Jami-Lee Ross saga.
"Hell no, he is just not that guy. He is a fighter. He fought for this role. He fought through the Jami-Lee Ross stuff, he held onto it. He was like a Lazarus rising. He came back from the dead last year when the same thing was going on but never this close to an election," she said.
"He won't give up without a fight, but he also may not have a chance because there are 16 MPs who lose their jobs on this poll and that has got them antsy, that has got them really nervous."
Boag, who was the party President between 2001 and 2002, says "sometime in the next couple of weeks", someone will approach Bridges claiming to have the support of the majority of party MPs.
"What is going to happen sometime in the next couple of weeks, someone is going to go to Simon Bridges with a list and say 'here's my numbers, you can't win'. If he forces it to an election, he will lose. That will happen in the next couple of weeks."
She agrees with O'Brien that Bridges won't just stand down.
"I think he is probably another victim of COVID-19… he will fight. Normally, the National Party does these things very quickly and efficiently and the issue at the moment is who they are going to coalesce around. If they had already decided who they were going to coalesce around, it would have happened already."
She said the poll wasn't the end of the world for National as it showed the party had a base of about 30 percent, which she believes the party could eventually grow from. She said Labour's numbers were benefitting hugely from the constant attention on Ardern and the Government response to COVID-19.
"You have had the five million locked up in Cindy's Kindy with a daily political party broadcast with an incredibly compliant media who have been in her bubble."
"Yes, the numbers are outstanding and, yes, they have never been here before, but neither has a pandemic."