For Cunliffe's supporters, Little has the distinct advantage of not being Grant Robertson; for Robertson's adherents, he has the decisive positive of not being David Cunliffe. Given that it is a preferential voting system, the curious position of being no-one's first choice may serve him well.
There is precedent. Ed Miliband won the British Labour Party leadership by being no-one's first choice and everyone's second choice; I suspect the Cunliffe / Robertson camps are so embittered that they will probably find they do the same as the supporters of David Miliband, Ed Balls, Dianne Abbott and Andy Burnham, and achieve curious unity and elect the leader none of them want.And so it came to pass. Little won less than 16% of the caucus vote in the first round, and 43% in the third round as Parker and Mahuta's votes swung his way. The same pattern in the membership vote, surging from 25% to 44%. Though it is inevitably going to be pointed out that he trailed Robertson in both, and only beat him by a whisker. The comparisons with Ed Miliband, also brought home by the unions, seem even more apposite than I had imagined.
This means that Robertson will be deputy. Even if Little got to pick his deputy - which he doesn't - the likelihood is he would pick Robertson, given the way the votes fell. He lost caucus and membership votes. If his leadership is to be credible beyond the weekend, he needs a popular, heavyweight candidate.
Mahuta (a popular choice among Standard commentators noted for their lack of attachment to the real world) does not have that support. Ardern lacks the experience. Robertson is the obvious contender.
And - though it will stick in the craws of the partisan self-deluders on the left - it will probably be an effective combination.
I think Robertson, having run twice and lost twice, knows he isn't likely to get it now. If he knuckles down and gets on with being the most effective deputy the world has ever seen, he might be in with a shout in the future, though perversely the better he does his job (and thus helps Labour win) he will postpone that date. But another short-lived, ineffective leadership will simply leave him tarnished as well - either because he refuses to be part of the team, or doesn't play his part fully.