Kevin Rudd supporters say a return of the former prime minister would deliver Labor a 10-point surge in the polls - enough to stave off a rampant Tony Abbott.
But those loyal to an under-siege Julia Gillard were yesterday urging calm, with one MP warning the prospect of a rebooted Rudd prime ministership was "fool's gold".
The latest Nielsen poll has left many in the Gillard Government in despair. Labor slumped to 30 per cent primary support, pointing to the ALP losing 25 of its 71 seats.
The Prime Minister yesterday refused to be drawn on the poll, which saw her lose preferred PM status to Opposition Leader Mr Abbott for the first time in seven months, but senior ministers Greg Combet and Simon Crean acknowledged the numbers were worrying.
"It's a wake-up call isn't it? You can't gild the lily," Mr Crean said.
At the weekend, Mr Rudd said the leadership speculation should be put into cryogenic storage because "it ain't happening".
But his backers remain adamant that he is the only person who can prevent Labor suffering a catastrophic loss at the September 14 Federal election.
They point to polls that consistently show him to be more popular than Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott.
And they rejected the suggestion that last year's assault on Mr Rudd's character by his own colleagues during his leadership showdown with Ms Gillard had permanently damaged him.
But Gillard backers doubt a switch to Mr Rudd would pay any dividend given it would only unleash coalition advertisements ready-made by last year's leadership stoush in which Mr Rudd was derided as a "psychopath" and control freak by Labor MPs.
Essential Research found in June 2011 that a return to Mr Rudd would boost Labor's primary vote by 13 points but a poll by Galaxy Research 12 months ago found Mr Rudd would increase ALP support by a more modest three points.
"Our conclusion was that Rudd would make Labor competitive again," Galaxy managing director David Briggs said.
Treasurer Wayne Swan will today tell the Australian Workers Union conference that Labor could win as long as Mr Abbott was the alternative.
Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said yesterday: "The more we see of Kevin Rudd, the more it reminds us why Labor got rid of him in the first place.
"The problem is Labor. Look, if they put Kevin Rudd back, he'll last five minutes and then they'll put someone else in."It's a revolving door."
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