AUSTRALIA - Mr Kevin Rudd's campaign to win the Australian election on Saturday has been dealt a damaging blow after he fell behind opposition leader Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister for the first time in their four-year rivalry.
A survey published on Monday by Newspoll found Mr Abbott has a two percentage point lead - 43 to 41 per cent - over Mr Rudd as preferred prime minister, with 16 per cent uncommitted.
The poll marks a dramatic turnaround for Mr Rudd, one of the country's most popular prime ministers during his first term from 2007 to 2010.
Mr Abbott's conservative Liberal-National Coalition has stretched its lead against the ruling Labor party. The 54 per cent to 46 per cent lead is a margin which would produce a landslide victory for Mr Abbott if it continues to polling day.
A defiant Mr Rudd insisted on Monday that he could still win the election and that many voters had yet to make up their minds.
"Right across the country is a deep level of uncertainty and anxiety about Mr Abbott," he told a press conference in Gladstone, Queensland.
"Sure, the government has had its challenges, I concede that. But the bottom line is that people are scratching their heads wondering, and I believe worrying, about Mr Abbott's ability to manage a A$1.5 trillion (S$1.7 trillion) economy."
Mr Rudd, 55, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat, was restored as party leader in June.