Newshub's Patrick Gower has urged National Party leader Christopher Luxon to be careful with his rhetoric if he wants to attract more of the centrist vote.
It comes after the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll showed a significant boost for Labour since Chris Hipkins became the party's leader and Prime Minister.
Labour was up 5.7 points to 38 percent while National was down 4.1 points to 36.6 percent.
Appearing on AM's panel, Newshub journalist and former political editor Gower said the poll showed Hipkins had "put a massive hit job" on Luxon.
"He's panicking," Gower said of Luxon. "It will be panic stations on planet Luxon right now.
"The question around Chris Luxon that I've got is, who is he? I'm watching him at Rātana… he actually delivered quite a racially-charged attack at Rātana Marae.
"My question is, does he have the courage to push on with that through Waitangi this weekend, and are voters looking at Chris Luxon out there like, 'Maybe this guy isn't the next John Key, maybe he's the next Don Brash?' And he needs to be very careful about that with centre voters."
Right-leaning political commentator Trish Sherson believed National needed "to put a bit of gravel under the back tyres".
"They have got a little bit stuck in the poll levels," she said of National. "But you take away the bump around the personality and the problems remain for Labour; so record health waiting lists, law and order is still a massive issue, what is going to happen to the economy this year? What else can they throw at that?"
The National Party was most trusted to guide New Zealand through this year's predicted recession, the poll found - despite falling behind in the preferred party rankings.
Sherson said "there's been lots of great talk" from Hipkins since he became Prime Minister but believed delivery was still Labour's "big problem".
"They've had five years and they haven't managed to deliver," she added.