Victoria on teal tsunami watch in election

Victorian Liberal MP John Pesutto's face said it all.

It was Victorian election night in 2018 and he had just been told on live television he had lost his inner Melbourne seat of Hawthorn to a retired school principal.

Fast forward to this year's May federal election, the result can now be seen as a harbinger of the doom that awaited the Liberals when Labor and "teal" candidates unseated four sitting MPs in Melbourne's east and southeast.

The Victorian election on November 26 will test whether the teal independent brand of action on climate, integrity and equality will translate at a state level.

Hawthorn, a former Liberal stronghold and within the federal electorate of Kooyong where Monique Ryan knocked off treasurer Josh Frydenberg, is the most high profile battleground.

In large part that is due to Mr Pesutto's attempted political comeback.

"Not even Labor picked that tsunami that led them to 55 seats in the lower house," he told AAP.

"As painful as it was to watch that slip away during the evening, I guess that deep down I ... knew that I had no choice but to keep going."

The former shadow attorney-general's official campaign launch last month attracted a bevy of Victorian Liberal luminaries, including former premier Ted Baillieu and Mr Frydenberg.

An air of leadership hung over the event and Mr Pesutto doesn't deny eyeing a senior role within the party if re-elected.

The seat in Melbourne's inner east is held by Labor incumbent John Kennedy but pollsters and political commentators suggest it is a contest between Mr Pesutto and teal challenger Melissa Lowe.

Ms Lowe, a Swinburne University program manager, has seen up close what it takes to win an election, volunteering on Ms Ryan's campaign.

Hundreds of corflutes have sprung up across Hawthorn, Hawthorn East and Camberwell, but the advertising arms race has not hit the highs of May's Kooyong campaign because of Victoria's strict donation cap.

"Our donations are growing, but they're like mum and dad donations - $200, $50," Ms Lowe said, adding her campaign has raised more than $155,000.

Other teal candidates are challenging the Liberal-held seats of Kew (Sophie Torney), Caulfield (Nomi Kaltmann) and Mornington (Kate Lardner).

Ms Lowe wants to prove the independent movement is sustainable and May was no fluke.

"The pressure I feel is to uphold this action and make sure that community voices are heard," she told AAP.

"The independents in the federal parliament ... can't do it on their own. It can't be just a one-off."

Just nine days out from polling day, the teals fought to be allowed to campaign the same way as their federal counterparts, launching a successful legal challenge against the electoral commission over how-to-vote cards.

Former Labor campaign strategist turned pollster Kos Samaras expects community independents to be most competitive in Hawthorn, Kew, Mornington and Benambra.

They won't be able to count on the palpable voter angst towards the Morrison government but Mr Samaras believes the state Liberals brand is also on the nose, especially with young people.

"What they need to get their heads around is the structural problem that exists in Victoria," the RedBridge director said.

"They only secure something like 10 per cent of millennials in some electorates."

Then there is the impact of the pandemic.

Victoria's response has been more heavily scrutinised than other states yet Labor appears set to avoid the same fate as the SA Liberals, the first and only state or territory government to lose power following the health crisis.

Opinion polls indicate any voter backlash over COVID-19 or repeated corruption investigations into the Andrews government won't be enough for Labor to be booted from office.

"But there's a fine line between majority and minority government at the moment," Mr Samaras said, forecasting Labor to win between 42 and 48 seats.

He warns Labor will lose "bark", particularly in Melbourne's outer suburbs.

Its hold over the seats of Melton, Werribee and Point Cook in the west are at risk to non-teal independents, along with outer eastern suburban seats to the Liberals.

Inner-city seats such as Richmond and Northcote could also fall to the Greens, the pollster said.

Victorian Greens Leader Samantha Ratnam has designs on doubling the party's numbers in the lower house from three to six, capitalising on the federal "Greenslide".

"We have the opportunity, should it present itself, to work with the Labor government to create a really progressive government," she said.

Under Matthew Guy, the Liberals have sold a more compelling message on health than its tough-on-crime 2018 campaign, Monash University political scientist Zareh Ghazarian said.

But the election is still Labor's to lose, with the electoral commission referring Mr Guy and his former chief of staff Mitch Catlin to the corruption watchdog over a donor scandal.

"The coalition has continually found itself answering questions about its organisation," Dr Ghazarian said.

Mr Samaras added it may be more of an equation of the coalition reducing its seat deficit than winning.

"The Libs can pick up anywhere between seven and 10 seats ... but could realistically lose two to three," he said.