NZ Election: Simon Bridges reminds voters how popular National were under his leadership

Simon Bridges has taken the opportunity to remind voters just how much more popular the National Party was under his leadership. 

National's numbers have been on the slide this year, falling from the mid-40s in February to 30 percent, give or take, in recent polling. 

Bridges was rolled in May by Todd Muller, who said a victory under Bridges' leadership was "not possible". The only mainstream media-backed poll taken during his leadership put National on 38 percent. Muller stepped down a few weeks later, and was replaced by Judith Collins. 

The most recent polls have put National, under Collins, on 25.1 percent (Newshub-Reid Research) and 31 percent (TVNZ-Colmar Brunton). 

Bridges was quick to point this out on Friday, when The AM Show host Duncan Garner pointed out National's polling was better when he was leader.

"Forty-six percent, but let's not go there," Bridges said, prompting guffaws from Garner. Labour MP David Parker, appearing on The AM Show with Bridges, had a huge smile on his face.

"I had to - I'm only human," Bridges said, perhaps fearing he'd made a mistake. 

The truth is not quite so simple. The last time National polled 46 percent was indeed under Bridges' leadership, in a TVNZ-Colmar Brunton poll in February. A Newshub-Reid Research poll a couple of weeks earlier had the party on 43.3 percent, statistically in line with the TVNZ-Colmar Brunton poll.

But then COVID-19 happened. By April there were signs National's support was slipping, confirmed by two polls in May which put the party on about 30 percent. A week after a TVNZ-Colmar Brunton poll put National on 29, Bridges was rolled.

National hasn't polled in the 40s since then. But Bridges says they don't tell the whole story.

"There's two things going on here - there's the polls on one side, there's momentum on the other. Actually I think we've got the momentum."

He pointed to Labour's five-point drop in the latest TVNZ-Colmar Brunton poll - a statistically significant fall, but one that still leaves them in a position to form a single-party Government.

"On the momentum of this campaign, we've actually got it," Bridges said. "I tell you what I'm thankful for - I thought it was shaping up to be a real humdrum campaign. I think actually we're finally starting to see some issues, some excitement - it's about time."

Asked if he was suffering any 'FOMO' watching Collins debate Labour leader Jacinda Ardern earlier this week, he said no.

"I had my cashews and my roasted peanuts and my beer in hand. It was lovely."

Predictably, he said Collins won the debate - citing "the pundits" - while Parker opted for his boss, Ardern.

"Judith played her normal game, which is negative; Jacinda played her normal game, which is positive. Of course the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - she's mobbed everywhere she goes."