I hate to say I told you so

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First Grader
KEVIN Rudd has surged in popularity despite a week of reports about his jaunt to a strip club and a record bumper surplus by the Howard Government.

The Labor Party now leads the Government by an extraordinary 14 points on a two-party preferred vote in the latest Herald Sun/Galaxy poll - a result that would see a landslide ALP win if repeated at the coming election.

Instead of damaging Mr Rudd's standing, revelations of a visit to the strip club appear to have helped him, with 85 per cent of voters polled saying it showed he was "a normal bloke".

A third said he was unlucky to be caught out. Just 10 per cent said it showed poor morals - and opinion was almost universal with male and female voters taking a similar view.

However in more bad news for the Howard Government, its economic credentials have taken a battering after Treasurer Peter Costello unveiled a $17 billion surplus last week.

Rather than attributing the surplus to good economic management, 51 per cent of those polled believe the Government accumulated its surplus by setting taxes too high.

Even 29 per cent of Coalition voters said the surplus had been achieved by excessive taxing.

Just 32 per cent of voters overall gave the Government credit for building the surplus through good economic management.

The Coalition's primary vote has shrunk to 39 per cent - down three points on last month - while Labor's primary vote has shot up three points to 47 per cent.

Support for the Greens and other minor parties was largely unchanged.

On a two-party preferred vote, the Labor Party now holds a 57-43 point lead over the Coalition - the overwhelmingly dominant position it held in April-May.

Over recent months the Galaxy poll has shown the Coalition clawing back support from Labor, but the weekend's poll shows those gains may have been wiped out.

The Government had hoped its strong surplus and the recent international market turmoil might boost its stocks with voters wary of Labor's inexperience on economic management.

However Galaxy Research pollster David Briggs said the impact of the recent rate rise weighed more heavily on voters than the strip club visit.

"The poll suggests that voters have been able to distinguish between issues of substance and non-issues, with the Government taking a hit on its economic credentials," he said.

Voters are also cynical about attempts by the Government to buy its way to an election victory with just 5 per cent saying that was the best way to spend the $17 billion surplus.

By contrast, 95 per cent said it should be spent on hospitals and schools, 72 per cent said spend it on infrastructure, 66 per cent said it should be given back to taxpayers as tax cuts, and 56 per cent said it should go to the states.

The Galaxy phone poll of 1004 voters was taken over the weekend.

Prime Minister John Howard yesterday called on Labor to reveal where it would cut government expenditure to pay for its promises.

Opposition treasury spokesman Wayne Swan earlier accused the Government of failing to be prudent in making election spending promises.

"Its approach has been to hoard the money and then to throw it at the electorate just before an election," he said.

Mr Howard used his weekly radio address to hit back at Mr Swan and accuse Labor of playing a "double dishonest game with the public".

"While Mr Swan fails to acknowledge that Labor's own post-Budget commitments exceed $4.6 billion, the weekend attack raises an obvious question," he said.

"If Mr Rudd has now decided to oppose the Government's commitments, which of them will be axed if Labor wins government?"

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