Comment: The latest Newshub Reid Research poll has significantly shifted the dial, not least because National has finally found its way into the 40s.

It’s taken a plummet into record lows for Labour and an awful week of candidate collapse from Act but National is now in the zone where it looks like it could have a caucus of more than 50 after the October election.

On Monday night’s numbers Labour would drop from the 65 MPs it brought in under Jacinda Ardern in her 2020 landslide victory to just 34 MPs in opposition.

It puts Labour at risk of losing seats it would have comfortably assumed it would hold when it released its candidate list just six weeks ago.

National however would have the ability to bring in much more of that diversity it lost and has so desperately missed in the past three years.

* Big dental promise kick-starts Labour’s campaign
* Labour’s policy goody bag falls short
Practice makes Luxon less imperfect

In a week where Christopher Luxon and Nicola Willis were doing verbal gymnastics trying to explain how National would pay for tax cuts through a ropey looking foreign buyer fee and unidentified public service slashings, they’ll be celebrating the mood for change having superseded costings and details.

The only big concern National has right now is how serious Act leader David Seymour is about only offering confidence and no supply if his party’s policies aren’t taken seriously in any negotiations.

In this poll National can’t rely on New Zealand First, which fell short of the 5 percent threshold (only just on 4.6 percent) and would have to do a deal with Act to get its 13 MPs and a government across the line.

Act’s support was down 2 points to 10.1 percent after a messy week of disappearing candidates and pettiness from Seymour when questioned about internal disarray, but on these poll numbers he’d still be able to call a few shots.

National has spent much of the past week ruling out Act policies it doesn’t see eye to eye on and has benefited from a bump of 4.3 points – stealing some from Act and some from Labour.

It’s the same week Labour has dedicated significant campaign airtime to its promise to extend free dental care to under 30s.

That was the big Hail Mary from Chris Hipkins at the party’s launch in Auckland at the start of the month that has been well and truly captured by this poll, which started canvassing voters the day after Labour’s campaign launch, and the same day as National’s.

Slumping to 26.8 percent – down 5.5 points – is a real danger zone for Labour.

They’re numbers not seen since its last big Hail Mary, when then-leader Andrew Little handed the steering wheel to Ardern just seven weeks out from the 2017 election.

As for the saving grace Hipkins has held onto as his party vote has consistently dropped in recent months – being ahead in the preferred prime minister ratings – Luxon has stung him there too collecting an equal 22.5 percent.

Hipkins is good on his feet but it’s hard to get your head in the game if it feels like victory is in the rear-view mirror.

Hipkins will be looking to refocus and find a new way to convince voters Luxon doesn’t have the chops for top office.

That chance might come in a week when the first of four leaders’ debates kicks off.

Hipkins knows he has the advantage when it comes to head-to-heads and has proven to be more agile on his feet than Luxon in both the House and with the media.

It’s an advantage Hipkins will have put a lot of stock in and Luxon knows it given he’s been returning to Auckland every night during the campaign to stay on top of debate prep.

But there’s one thing Hipkins won’t have necessarily banked on – going into that debate with such a gulf between the centre-left and centre-right blocs.

And with TVNZ almost certainly expected to deliver its own poll just an hour before the first televised debate, there’s every chance it could be even worse by the time he gets to the podium.

Hipkins is good on his feet but it’s hard to get your head in the game if it feels like victory is in the rear-view mirror.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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