Campaign a popularity contest

WITH the Palmer United Party eating into Labor's heartland, voters in Franklin may decide there's not enough room for both Premier Lara Giddings and Labor leadership rival David O'Byrne in the next State Parliament. 

Polling conducted by The Examiner late last week showed the Liberals with 47 per cent support in the southern electorate, compared to Labor's 27 per cent. 

On those figures the Liberals are more likely to claim three seats and Labor just one, while Greens leader Nick McKim will be safely returned. 

As a result, the campaign has become somewhat of a popularity contest between Ms Giddings and Mr O'Byrne _ the man Labor insiders hope can rebuild the party from Opposition.  

Ms Giddings has the advantage of the title and its associated maximum media exposure.

 She also has history on her side, with no incumbent Premier ever being ousted under Hare-Clark. 

In Mr O'Byrne's corner are the unions. As former head of the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union, Mr O'Byrne has been able to draw on valuable donations and resources from Tasmanian and interstate branches of unions in the lead up to Saturday's election in what's been branded a ``celebrity-style'' campaign. 

The result will be close, but University of Tasmania political scientist Richard Ecclestone believes preferences will enable Mr O'Byrne to scrape back in. 

Professor Ecclestone says Labor's support base in the diverse electorate has been eroded by new minor party PUP which is polling at 5.6 per cent. 

``I think disillusioned working class voters who don't want to support Labor appear to be turning to PUP,'' Dr Ecclestone said. 

Franklin is also home to Liberal leader Will Hodgman, who it appears certain will lead his party to victory on Saturday. He topped the poll in 2010 with more than 16,000 first preferences and can be relied upon to do the same this time around. 

``If it's two Labor, two Liberals and one Green outcome, Jacquie Petrusma and Paul Harriss will be fighting for the second Liberal seat,'' Dr Ecclestone predicted. 

Ms Petrusma, who claimed less than 2000 first preferences last time around, may be outpolled by the former Legislative Councillor who has risked his political career for a spot in the lower house. 

Mr Harriss enjoys a big profile in his former Legislative Council electorate of Huon and is well known for his vigorous pro-forestry stance.  

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