Rudd unveils his lucky charm

KEVIN RUDD is master of the professional embrace. Out on the hustings it's a matter of greet 'em, grab 'em, get close for the shot, and then move on quickly.

Campaigning in the Queensland election yesterday, in just two hours - which included a yum cha meal - Mr Rudd posed dozens of times for photos in a march through a shopping mall and three Asian restaurants.

In the seat of Sunnybank, with a large Asian, especially Chinese, population, the former (and aspiring future) prime minister called out in Mandarin at the Oriental restaurant for people to vote for the Labor candidate Meg Bishop.

While Sunnybank is on a hefty margin of nearly 11 per cent, the Labor member is retiring and the Bligh government is on the ropes. Ms Bishop, a schoolteacher, was delighted to have Mr Rudd's pulling power with the Chinese.

Danny Yeo, the part-owner of the Oriental, said Mr Rudd was ''very popular''. His command of Mandarin was ''why the Asian people like him very much. And he's a Queenslander.''

After a quick whiz through the Vietnam Corner restaurant, the Foreign Affairs Minister stood on tip-toe beside a very tall man for yet more snaps. There were no TV cameras, and only local and ethnic media. But even before Mr Rudd left, people had photos on the internet.

Mostly, the locals were enthusiastic. But a few were unimpressed. One passer-by, asked whether she thought he'd become prime minister again, said: ''No, I don't want him.''

The man often seen as ''all about Kevin'' made sure Ms Bishop was in every frame. The Rudd arm was always around her shoulder. As he clutched one woman, he told her with a note of urgency: ''You've got to vote for Meg.''

Mr Rudd and Ms Bishop have one quirky connection - her mother was in a pre-selection against him, though she pulled out before the vote.

The Rudd greetings are brief and pat. ''I'm Kevin,'' he tells shoppers. ''What's your name?''; ''Good to see you''; ''Hi guys''.

People were more interested in pictures than autographs. For a campaigning production line, snaps taken on mobile phones are certainly faster, and give more bang for the buck if they're posted. Rudd is very tactile on the trail, but there's no kissing. Small children are hoisted aloft - obviously the ticker's back in shape.

Tomorrow Mr Rudd will be back in Federal Parliament, at the centre of the leadership speculation when a Four Corners profile is shown.

But on Friday he'll return to the state campaign, visiting the crucial seat of Ashgrove, where Liberal National Party leader Campbell Newman needs a swing of about seven per cent to enter parliament. The polls show the contest in Ashgrove is tightening, although Newman is ahead of Labor's Kate Jones.

Mr Rudd said: ''If [Campbell Newman] doesn't win Ashgrove, the whole house of cards will come crashing down. The good old boys from the National Party will be running the show.'' But whoever ended up as premier in an LNP government, ''it will be a Clive Palmer government'' - and 20 years ago I thought we'd got rid of the white shoe brigade''.

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