Marginal machinations: The seats to watch

Let's take a look at the seats you might want to take a look at tomorrow night

It's MMP and it's all about the party vote, of course. But this election a bunch of electorate seats actually look really interesting. And it's not just the obvious ones.

The stand-out two are Epsom and Ohariu because entire parties - and coalition partners for National - depend on them. Can ACT and United Future, respectively, stay alive?

Five of the seven Maori seats have some uncertainty about them. Harawira's probably safe in Tai Tokerau, but you can't be 100% sure. Morgan's outlined his thoughts here, and he knows better than me.

Hamilton West used to be the great weather vane seat - and it may still be, inasmuch as Tim McIndoe should hold off Sue Moroney.

Can Andrew Little win New Plymouth against Mr Invisible, Jonathan Young? If he can't he becomes another able List MP, but hardly a leader-in-waiting. He'd have to start again.

Clayton Cosgrove is at real risk in Waimakariri. He's high enough on Labour's list, at eight, to get back regardless. But then so's Kate Wilkinson. A blow to Labour if he can't hold it, it's a tale of two towns - quake-ravaged Kaiapoi and the un-hit refugee haven of Rangiora.

And what about Palmerston North? Can Labour hold it's one remaining seat outside the four main centres? It used to be Steve Maharey's and Trevor de Cleene's before that, so should be safe. But the provinces have turned to the right. Can the Massey University vote stop that?

And while we're in the lower North Island, there's Otaki. Nathan Guy beat Darren Hughes by a little over 1,000 votes last time. Hughes is gone and Peter Foster is now running. I'm not sure of local issues, but given that National has the swing, Guy has a future and National won the party vote by over 3,000 last time, you'd assume it would be a hold.

Auckland Central will get a lot of attention. Two young women who have worked their socks off. Nikki Kaye has the swing to National at her back, but how big was the anti-Judith Tizard vote last time? If it swung in behind Jacinda Ardern...

The West Coast sees Damien O'Connor fighting for his life. Chris Auchinvole should be safe on National's list, whereas O'Connor rejected a list spot, saying 'electorate MP or die'. His work in the community post-Pike River will give him a boost, but is it enough when pitted against such a popular National party?

Chris Hipkins has impressed as an MP, but faces a battle in Rimutaka given his majority of only 753. National's Jonathan Fletcher is running hard, but the promise of public sector cuts in a commuter seat full of public servants could keep Hipkins happy. 

If the tide's really going out for Labour, check out Te Atatu. Phil Twyford should win it, but he needs to given his low list ranking. That may actually help him, because he's up against National's Tau Henare, so I'm sure Twyford is telling everyone Henare will get in anyway. But if the electorate reallyturns on Labour, Twyford could be washed away.

The same might be said of Mana. The seat, that is. Kris Faafoi should be sweet in a safe Labour seat. But the Energiser bunny that is Hekia Parata really wants to win and has the wind behind her.

There's Waitakere of course. A minister such as Paula Bennett should be honky dory, but she's not as popular as her image suggests. Her cutting the TIA that allowed her to climb the ladder of success plays terribly with women voters, especially in the middle class. She should do the business, especially with Sue Bradford stealing a portion of the left-wing vote. But Carmel Sepuloni is only 24th on Labour's list and could be a goner if she can't take the seat, so will presumably have given it her all.

Rodney will be interesting. Colin Craig won't win, but will be build enough support to earn a cup of tea from John Key in three years?