Opinion polls point to his defeat on September 7 but Kevin Rudd appears to have found a begrudging friend.
The Economist magazine believes the prime minister “just about” deserves another turn.
But in its latest edition that will hit newsstands on Saturday, it says the choice for voters between Mr Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott “frankly, is not great”.
The centre-right Liberal-National coalition would normally get the magazine’s vote with a tradition of being pro-business and against big government.
But it says Mr Abbott does not seem a instinctive fan of markets, and questions his hugely expensive paid parental leave scheme.
“That may help him persuade women voters that charges of misogyny are unfair, but he has not properly explained how he intends to pay for it,” it says.
Neither is it drawn to Mr Abbott’s social conservatism – he opposes gay marriage and supports populist measures against those seeking asylum into Australia.
“Indeed his promise to turn back the boats seems to be his only foreign policy.”
The Economist’s main mark against Labor’s policy card is that it has shifted a long way towards Mr Abbott’s position on asylum-seekers.
Aside from that, the magazine believes Labor has a reasonable record, not least putting a price on carbon when it is the world’s biggest coal exporter and heavily reliant on coal for its electricity.
“This is a laudable achievement,” it says.
But it says the trouble with Labor is two-fold.
“Its internecine (destructive internal) strife makes the Chinese Communist Party look harmonious – warfare within its ranks has undermined Labor’s governance during its six years in office – and there are questions over the character of its mercurial leader, Kevin Rudd.”
It says the choice of a man with a defective manifesto and one with a defective personality is not appealing, but Mr Rudd gets its vote, largely because of Labor’s decent record, and his numbers look more likely to add up than Mr Abbott’s.
Despite his high-handed style, his strategic skills will be useful as Australia has to balance its economic dependence on China with its security dependence on America.
“It would be nice if he revived his liberal approach to asylum-seekers. And, who knows, he may even live up to his promise to be less vile to his colleagues.”