Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he's not surprised by polling showing his new star candidate Peter Beattie well behind the coalition in the seat of Forde.
Mr Rudd announced on Thursday that the former Queensland premier would replace Labor's candidate Des Hardman in the Brisbane seat, just four weeks out from the September 7 election.
Labor hopes Mr Beattie will give Labor a better chance of winning the seat from the coalition's Bert Van Manen.
But an exclusive 7News-ReachTel poll of 725 voters taken in the seat of Forde revealed Mr Van Manen leading Mr Beattie 54 to 46.
"We knew we were behind in Forde before Peter Beattie came back and decided to be our candidate," Mr Rudd told 7News on Friday.
Labor is the underdog right across the country, he said.
"Peter Beattie has his job cut out for him but I know he's a person who'll rise to the challenge.
Mr Rudd was also asked about The Courier-Mail's Friday front page, showing Mr Rudd and Mr Beattie with the headline "Send in the Clown".
Mr Rudd joked it was another example of the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp's "fair and balanced" reporting.
"That's a matter for them, it's a free country," he said.
Asked about the ReachTel poll, Mr Beattie said he knew he had to get out and "win hearts and minds" in Forde.
"I have got the biggest fight of my political life ahead of me," he told 7News.
Mr Beattie shrugged off The Courier-Mail's clown headline but warned the media about trying to sway public opinion.
Asked if News Ltd was picking on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, he said:
"I know one thing - that no newspaper can tell Australians what to do or think.
"It doesn't matter which newspaper it is - whether we are talking about Fairfax, Murdoch, it doesn't matter. If you tell Australians something, they will tell you to go jump."
He said rough headlines were part of the political game.
"I copped one this morning. You just have to get over it and move on."
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said voters were right to be sceptical about "celebrity blow-ins".
"Obviously if he were to get up it would radically increase leadership tensions within the Labor party," Mr Abbott said of Mr Beattie, who was premier of Queensland from 1998 to 2007.
"It's yet another example of a Labor party that is focused on itself," he said.
Labor's campaign spokeswoman Penny Wong said Forde was a must-win seat for Labor.
"I don't accept that this is a stunt ... it's about Labor holding government and making sure that Tony Abbott doesn't become prime minister," she said.
Meanwhile, former prime minister John Howard said Mr Beattie's return was "an interesting development".
"But I don't think it's going to give the Labor party quite the advantage they imagine," he told reporters while campaigning on the NSW Central Coast.
Mr Howard added that he didn't have any plans to follow Mr Beattie's lead and return to politics.
"I've had my run," he said.
"I was very well satisfied with the opportunities the Australian people gave me to serve them.'