Fresh from the ugliest by-election bruising a NSW government has ever copped, and looking fabulous in a knee-skimming white coat, Premier Kristina Keneally alighted from the Gong Shuttle Bus with a carefree flick of the hair. A young girl watching turned to her mother and asked breathlessly: "Mum, is that a princess?" The moment spoke volumes of the strange political situation in this "premier" state of NSW. We have far and away the worst government in Australia. We also have the best looking premier.Kristina Keneally has stepped into the toughest political job in the country and taken on one disaster after another, with admirable resolve, a calm demeanour and that charming little kick in her bob. And she has done all this as the factional wild things gnash their terrible teeth behind her, bristling with fear and loathing - more, even, than usual - in the shadow of political annihilation.Princess Kristina is not just the best thing the NSW Government has got going for it, she is the only thing.Of course, it shouldn't matter that Kristina is cute and Barry O'Farrell is, well, Barry. But it does. Every politician understands the importance of image; even John Howard heeded advice over the years of his political career to trim his eyebrows, get a haircut and spruce up his choice of specs.Politics is a mysterious science, a dark art that defies cool logic and relies on people's perceptions. For many voters, politics is as boring as it is confusing, and the only real engagement comes during relatively short election campaigns. For these voters, it can effectively come down to first impressions - and when first impressions count, Kristina cuts an impressive figure. If you take away the decaying state of NSW, our crumbling hospitals, stalled transport plans and wretched roads, and look at Kristina and Barry on a superficial, presidential-style campaign level, what do you see? On the one hand, a composed, stylish, attractive woman who at least one girl mistook for a princess. On the other hand, Barry.And it's not just voters who fail to engage with the political process that Kristina might woo. During last weekend's Penrith by-election bloodbath, there was a definite theme to the reasoning amongst the dwindling ranks of Labor voters who chose to stick with the party: they liked Kristina. They thought she was doing a good job. She deserved a go. It wasn't her fault the premiers before her were so hopeless.So, she has it all really. The good looks and charm to win over the easily swayed, and the resolve and determination to impress and give hope to the long-suffering rusted-on ALP voters. She has even managed to smooth the twang of her American accent so her message is more readily digested. If she could just jettison the rest of the government, she'd have a real chance. But there's the rub. While the jury is still out on the new-look Gillard government, the foreman is already on his feet and looking grim in NSW.If the NSW Labor Government somehow manages to win the unwinnable election next March, it will be down to two things: Kristina's presence and Barry's reticence to announce policy detail. He has been down our way a number of times, bearing motherhood statements and precious little else.Nevertheless, he will probably win. Kristina might be charming, composed, capable and cute but there ain't nothing cute about the state of NSW. Chris Dyson is the Mercury's chief of staff.