As Julia Gillard left New York after a spirited four days of lobbying, she and her delegation were cautiously optimistic at best about Australia's chances of securing a United Nations Security Council seat.
''That's because we have to be,'' says a senior member of the delegation.
''We don't entertain the thought of losing. You don't waste emotional energy on the prospect of defeat.''
In reality, no one has a clue.
''We won't know until the day; it's that simple,'' the official says of October 18, when all 193 member nations will vote for 10 new non-permanent members to sit on the Security Council in 2013 and 2014.
Gillard has a bet each way just before flying home.
''I have been encouraged by the support for Australia,'' she says.
At the same time, she is preparing the ground for a loss, saying that whatever the outcome, her week in Manhattan has impressed upon her ''that Australia is a nation that is respected in the world''.
''Whatever happens with our Security Council bid, I've certainly been left with an impression of warmth for Australia.''
Bob Carr, the Foreign Affairs Minister, who met more than 30 of his counterparts in four days, ridicules a claim by one commentator that Australia has it in the bag.
Australia has a good chance but it is very close at best, says Carr.
Australia, Luxembourg and Finland are competing for two of three spots allocated to the group known as the Western Europe and Others Group.
Winning is about seeking to advance the national interest by having more influence on events from which, in a globalised world, the country is even less immune. It is also about pride, or as Carr says, Australia's ego. Gillard does not disagree.
Australia launched its bid in March 2008 when Kevin Rudd was prime minister. Its two rivals launched theirs six years earlier.
''It's like starting the Stawell Gift a metre behind scratch. It doesn't mean you can't win,'' the official says.
From afar, it seems that Australia, as a middle power, with a large aid budget, a strong peacekeeping record as both leader and contributor, and a founding member of the UN, should walk in ahead of such minnows as Luxembourg and Finland.
Rudd summarises the complexities during the week. In short, merit is only a bit player. ''People will say, 'well Finland is a smaller country and Luxembourg is a tiny country' but the truth is the way in which people vote around the world is shaped by many, many different factors''.
''The Europeans, for example, tend to vote as one. Then of course you have a natural sympathy for small countries around the world by the 40 or 50 micro-states around the world or small countries. It's a very, very complex procedure.''
As another official tells the Herald, Australia has had to tread a delicate line in promoting its credentials while not bragging about its size relative to its rivals.
''Sometimes, being big can be a disadvantage. You can't brag about how big you are and argue you deserve it,'' he said.
Smaller countries will argue Australia belongs to the G20, whereas there are fewer options for them to belong to something influential and representative.
And each country has one vote, no matter how large or small.
Australia has no natural bloc of neighbours like Europe or Africa on which it can rely for a solid rump of votes.
Carr spent the week duchessing the Middle East and the Caribbean. Gillard's focus was Africa.
Nor can Australia rely on its traditional friends. Canada, for example, has told Australia it will be supporting Luxembourg and Finland. This is because those two nations backed Canada in its unsuccessful tilt for a seat on the present security council.
As part of the deal, Canada is now bound to back them. By convention, the permanent members of the council, the United States, Great Britain, France, China and Russia, never say who they will be supporting.
However, Gillard's speech to the United Nations General Assembly was very much in lock step with those of Britain's David Cameron and of President Barack Obama. Gillard pushed for the security council to muscle up over Syria and Iran, and she deplored the recent round of religious violence sparked by an amateur film which denigrated the prophet Muhammad.
Her comments on Syria suggest to the US and Britain they will have an ally in Australia on the council, which has been frustrated by China and Russia from taking action against the Syrian regime.
Another factor Australia has had to be sensitive about is its traditional links to Britain and the US.
Australia has gone to some lengths to disabuse those it lobbies of any preconception it is an arm of the bigger powers.
''I make the point,'' said Carr, ''when we put Australia's case that we are not America, we are not Europe. We're a multicultural country between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and we've got our own perspective to put to the world. We're a creative middle power that, it might be said, punches above its weight. And we haven't been on the Security Council from the mid-80s. That's our case.''
In a very deliberate line in her UN General Assembly speech, Gillard made the same point, albeit more subtly. ''We are a county of the Asia-Pacific, a neighbour to developing countries, with a perspective of both the North and South,'' she says.
One impediment Australia faces that its rivals do not is opposition at home.
The Coalition has been hostile towards the bid from the outset, promising before the last election to scrap it and save the money. While it offers heavily qualified support now, its attitude has been noticed and, according those at the coal face, is being used by Australia's rivals.
''It is being used against us by opponents who say 'Australia isn't committed','' an official says. ''We're the only country where the opposition has spoken negatively about the bid. It's very odd.''