Rudd flies in Team Obama
Kevin Rudd has called in three US campaign heavyweights, including the man dubbed ''Barack Obama's digital attack dog'' to help defeat Tony Abbott.
With speculation over the poll date now at fever pitch - and an announcement expected within days - the ALP's campaign team has secured the expertise of Tom McMahon, the former executive director of the powerful Democratic National Committee during President Obama's last campaign.
It has also called in Joon Kim of the consulting firm New Partners, and the British social media expert, Matthew McGregor, known for his ability to get spoof videos online sometimes within minutes of mistakes being made by his opponents.
All three played pivotal roles in the 2012 campaign when the Democratic Party out-boxed the Republicans using ever-more sophisticated social media and comprehensive field operations to see off what initially looked like a strong challenge from the popular Mitt Romney.
Mr McGregor is expected in Australia within the next two days while the other two have already arrived.
On Wednesday, Mr Rudd said the Obama team were very welcome but referred specific questions about their appointments to the Labor Party's organisation wing.
''I've always been a strong supporter of President Obama, both in his leadership in the world also his message to the American people. We will draw upon the best brains in the world. But these are question for the national organisation of the Australian Labor Party,'' he told reporters in Sydney.
Before rising to vice-president at New Partners, Joon Kim managed 14 campaigns in six states between 2010 and 2011 (seven of which were successful), and served as ''field director'' of John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004.
The government will produce its foreshadowed economic statement this week, possibly the last item of business before Mr Rudd visits the Governor-General for permission to stage the election.
September 7 is seen as the most likely date, given a consensus that Mr Rudd will not want to wait long once the economic state is released.
Political insiders cite the Obama campaigns as the gold standard in how to get voters out - critical in the US where voting is voluntary - and particularly in how to motivate and energise young voters.
Labor insiders say the youth vote will be a key factor in the election, claiming there has been a spike in pre-election enrolments since Mr Rudd returned to the leadership.
Mr McMahon, who had also been campaign director for the Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean in 2004, is regarded as a pioneer in the use of emerging social media platforms to organise grass-roots campaigns.
While the move is likely to draw criticism from the opposition, it will send shockwaves through the Abbott camp, given the trio's reputation for devastating campaigns built around a popular candidate using humour and ridicule.
In the most recent Fairfax-Nielsen poll Mr Rudd led Mr Abbott as preferred prime minister by 55 per cent to 41 and also held a strong lead in the net approval ratings with plus 8 per cent to Mr Abbott on minus 15 per cent.
Dubbed ''Tom Terrific'' after the 2006 elections that delivered control of the US House to the Democrats, Mr McMahon has more than 18 years' experience with the Democratic Party, running campaigns, crafting media attacks on the Republicans, fund-raising and providing strategic advice.
He served as executive director of the Democratic National Committee between 2005 and 2009, and helped craft the committee's ''50-state strategy'', which was credited with preparing the way for President Obama's victory in 2008. Before that, he was deputy campaign director for the Howard Dean presidential bid.
Joon Kim, of New Partners, last year defended negative political advertising, saying campaigns had ''relatively short windows'' to build brand affection and were thus likely to go for sharper messaging.
According to NZ research firm UMR, Joon Kim said: "Pepsi started off when you were a six-year-old saying Pepsi was cooler than Coke. Political campaigns only have time to say Coke will give you cancer and there is no other choice but Pepsi".
The Independent said of Mr McGregor: ''During the Obama campaign Mr McGregor's carefully crafted attack video and blogs exploited every Republican gaffe - often within minutes or hours of them being reported.''
Labor's national campaign director, George Wright, confirmed on Wednesday that the three would be engaged in campaign activities but would not be employed under the controversial 457 visa class formerly used by Julia Gillard for her communications director, John McTernan.
"They are here on short-term business visas as we discuss what role they might play in the campaign," Mr Wright said.
"Once we have finalised the details of their role, appropriate visas would be applied for.
‘‘I’m advised this would be a short-term subclass 400 visa (not 457) as the services would be for a short period only."
Mr McTernan's contract attracted attention when Ms Gillard criticised employers for sourcing workers overseas when suitable employees existed here.
with Bianca Hall and Jonathan Swan