When it comes to predicting election results, Tod Moore likes to follow the money.
"I just look at the betting sites, and whatever they say I find is usually about right," the University of Newcastle political scientist told the Newcastle Herald in the lead-up to today's federal vote.
"People who bet often have a gut instinct for this stuff. They're tuning in to what they're hearing in the front bar of the pub. They're tuning in to what people are saying privately."
Dr Moore said punters had an immediate interest in the election outcome, making them "more accurate than the pollsters".
"They're betting with their own money, and that weeds out all the loonies and all the lightweights."
So what are bookies saying about the election outcome?
Sportsbet paid out on a Labor victory on Thursday after watching the Coalition drift out to $5.50. It has Labor as favourite in 82 of the 151 seats, the Coalition to win 63 and other parties six.
The death of former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke firmed Labor's odds even further on Friday, from $1.16 into $1.14, as the Coalition went out to $5.75.
Dr Moore said Labor's recent lean to the left, committing to raising more money in taxation to fund better services such as health and child care, appeared to be resonating with a polity feeling the pinch after decades of economic rationalism.
But voter polling shows the race tightening. The most recent Ipsos survey put Labor ahead 51 to 49 per cent, much closer than the 53-47 split six weeks ago.
Craig Baumann, the former state Liberal MP for Port Stephens, said it was unclear if the death this week of Bob Hawke, a "popular prime minister from both sides", would translate into votes.
"I don't think anyone knows what's going to happen," he said on Friday.
"I don't think that many Liberals are exuding that much confidence, but it's a state-by-state thing. Who knows how NSW is going to go.
"We know how the Hunter's going to go."
Mr Baumann said he was interested in whether votes for Clive Palmer's and Pauline Hanson's parties translated into preferences for Coalition candidates.
"You would think that people who drift towards Clive would put a two against Liberal, or a three, after One Nation," he said.
"Who knows how influential his campaign has been. He's thrown enough money at it. The swingers might go to him and then actually stick with Liberal [preferences].
"If you look at it financially, you'd be crazy to vote Labor. Obviously I'm a keen Liberal, so I can say that with conviction."
While the difference between the Coalition, keen to promote the status quo, and Labor is more stark than it has been in years, the campaign in the Hunter has been predictably uneventful.
The Liberals have offered a rerun of their NSW election strategy, gagging inexperienced candidates from talking to the media to reduce the risk of a gaffe which could hurt the party elsewhere.
Its Paterson candidate, Sachin Joshi, did not front a PFAS forum at Williamtown this week. It was another black eye for the party locally, but the no-show did not reverberate beyond the Hunter.
Hunter Labor MPs have been quick to suggest the Coalition's low-key showing is "not good for democracy" and reflects how little the party cares about the region.
"It worries me that there's such a lack of interest state-wise and federally with the Liberal party in the Hunter," Wallsend state MP Sonia Hornery said.
"It's almost as if we don't exist ... as if they have wiped Hunter. They are focusing purely on seats they may win. But I think they're losing out.
"In 12 years, I've never seen such inactivity from the Liberal party in the Hunter. Usually they make an effort."
Mr Baumann said it was "fair comment" that the party's strategy in the Hunter could hurt its ability to attract good candidates and branch members.
But he said he had the "greatest respect" for candidates who ran against incumbents sitting on big margins.
"Back in the day, my aunt was the perennial Liberal candidate in Reid against Tom Uren and in Granville against the Fergusons.
"Someone had to do it, and she passed away having seen [Craig] Laundy win Reid and Tony Issa win Granville. It only took 30 years.
"My guess is that funding is tight. The Coalition doesn't benefit from unlimited union donations."
He said the 2015 boundary redistribution in Paterson, which excised conservative areas such as Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest from the electorate and replaced them with Maitland and Kurri Kurri, had turned a marginal seat into a Labor stronghold.
"Federally, the four Hunter seat boundaries do not seem to favour the Coalition. Looking at the maps, there's not much chance of winning a seat here," he said.
"Safe ALP Hunter seats also seem to select and then elect lacklustre members, with the occasional exception of excellent members and ministers like Bob Brown, Peter Morris, Greg Combet and Joel Fitzgibbon."
Labor, which holds the Hunter's four main electorates by margins of at least 9.9 per cent and has never been beaten in three of them, has offered a string of minor funding announcements during the campaign, among them a new bridge for Wallsend, pollution traps in Throsby Creek, enabling programs at the university, and a few million for better digital TV reception.
It is hard to escape the feeling that the Hunter will be reduced to the role of spectator today as the main drama plays out in Victoria, Queensland and swinging seats such as Robertson on the Central Coast.
But a region facing rising homelessness and above-average rates of unemployment and domestic violence, not to mention a potentially challenging transition away from coal, still has plenty of skin in the game.