It was a strange thing to hear a Premier say. Strange, only because he verbalised it in front of a full compliment of rolling news cameras.

"I'm not going to pretend to be an underdog," said Colin Barnett of the March 9 election.

Never before has a Premier given away the 'underdog' tag so willingly. But then again, Colin Barnett is not your typical leader.

More often than not, he'll say what he thinks and he'll say it even when people on his own side of politics would prefer he didn't.

This was probably one of those times.

It's now been left to the Liberal Party's State Director Ben Morton to hose down expectations, without contradicting Mr Barnett.

After-all the last thing Mr Morton wants is for people to believe the Liberal Party is a shoe in for a second term.

"The biggest threat to the Liberals at the next election is an incorrect perception in the wider community that the grip that Colin Barnett and the Liberals have on government is stronger than it really is," said Mr Morton.

"There is no point claiming underdog status - people just won't believe it! However, the smallest of protests against this government will change it.

"We can see Labor's campaign now. They will run a protest vote and it can work for them.

"Labor want you to think that they are the underdog and they can't win. Getting people to think that is all part of their tricky campaign."

Mr Morton claims Labor only has to win Fremantle and two other Liberal seats to form Government.

Defence mode

On paper he's right but in reality, Labor is trailing in the polls (43 - 57 on a two party preferred basis) and is in pure defence mode.

Labor will have its hands full defending seats that it shouldn't have to worry about. Seats like Belmont and Balcatta where Eric Ripper and John Kobelke are retiring. The seat of Pilbara is another that should be in the bag but isn't because Nationals Leader Brendon Grylls has got other ideas.

After boundary changes, the seat of Morley held by the Liberal's Ian Britza is now notionally Labor. Former Channel 7 reporter Reece Whitby is running for the ALP again but after all the shenanigans of the last campaign, the outcome is anyone's guess.

Labor is also defending in Joondalup, Forrestfield and Albany where the margins are thin to wafer thin.

On the plus side for Labor, things are looking good in the seat of Fremantle for reasons that should require no explanation.

Young and energetic candidates in the seats of Riverton and Swan Hills are also providing a glimmer of hope.

The ALP's State Secretary Simon Mead says history is working against Labor.

"No Liberal Government in WA has ever been defeated after only one term," he said.

"Voters in WA generally want to give Governments a decent chance.

"One factor will be whether four-and-a-half years of wrong priorities is considered too much for people, or if voters are prepared to give this Liberal Government a second chance.

"WA Labor will be presenting the voters will bold plans like METRONET that focus on the needs of the towns and suburbs of WA."

Mark McGowan took over the leadership on January 23 last year and despite giving the party an early bounce, Labor is now polling roughly what it did under Eric Ripper.

Greatest weakness

It's apparent from his comments that Mr Morton regards Mark McGowan as one of Labor's greatest weaknesses.

"We don't know much about Labor's Mark McGowan but we know he can't make decisions," he said.

"Has he decided yet if he supports the carbon tax or not?

"A great example of a politically desperate, stand for nothing, fence sitting, typical modern day Labor politician.

"The founders of the Labor Party would be turning in their graves."

Mr Mead says unlike Colin Barnett, Mark McGowan shares a connection with ordinary voters.

"Mark is fresh, energetic and focussed on the needs of ordinary people," he said.

"As someone who lives in Rockingham he knows the pressures that ordinary Western Australian's face and is determined to make their lives a little easier, not harder."

The campaign has a long way to run but we can be thankful for one thing. The 'underdog' question has been put to bed and on this subject at least there should be no more quibbling.

 

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