The work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has urged his party's candidate at the Eastleigh byelection to constantly remind voters that the former holder of the seat, the disgraced Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne, "is a liar".
Duncan Smith, a former Conservative party leader, said Hutchings should also go hard on the local Liberal Democrat council and get over the Tory message that it was pushing through developments on green sites while claiming to be protecting the countryside.
Tory sources denied that Duncan Smith's remarks signalled a new tactic in the campaign but they may increase tension between the Westminster coalition partners.
Hutchings has been on the back foot throughout the campaign after making headlines for outspoken and often off-message remarks.
While canvassing with Hutchings on a housing estate in the Hampshire constituency, Duncan Smith said he was glad she did not always toe the party line. He told reporters: "I think she is the real deal. I love somebody with independence. Show me somebody that has got a mind of their own and I honestly believe they'll get on well in parliament. I like somebody who has got a bit of something that says I'm going to be my own person. I think we should value that more in politics rather than just saying you've got to spout the party line. Yes we want solidity of party line; we also want some scope. I'm really impressed. I adore her, I think she is great."
Just before he left he addressed Hutchings and other Tory supporters and told them that when they went out on the doorstep they should tell voters on the doorstep starkly: "Your last MP was a liar." Huhne has pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice by dodging a speeding penalty 10 years ago.
Earlier, during a visit from the communities secretary Eric Pickles, Hutchings insisted she was relishing the campaign.
Asked if she was tired she said: "I love it. David Cameron asked me how I was bearing up. I said I'm thoroughly enjoying this. I wish it could go on for longer."
Both Duncan Smith and Pickles dismissed the idea that Cameron would be in trouble if the Tories did badly at Eastleigh.
Hutchings said she had not discussed how important the byelection was when the prime minister visited on Thursday. "We both know exactly how important it is," she said. "The prime minister was very interested to know how the campaign was going. We talked about it. He's encouraged at all the support we're having."
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