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Another sign of the Apocalypse… AMLO and FeCal align

14 June 2012

I was surprised yesterday to see Felipe Calderón saying he didn’t know who would win the Presidential election.  The wording was such that he didn’t just seem to be defending the so-far pathetic performance of his party’s candidate, Josefina Vasquez Mota, but that he thinks it really is too close to call.  Given that the “conventional wisdom” all along has been that Enrique Peña Nieto would be moving into Los Pinos in December, coming from the current resident of the Presidential compound, who has much better sources of political intelligence that I do, it was somewhat* unexpected.

Salvador García Soto, a widely read political columnist, while no friend of Peña Neito  is hardly an AMLO-ista, but admits that the election may be very close, and that the left might very well win.  My translation from the column published in 24 Horas:

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s  political death certificate was written too soon.  He is not only alive, but in a race for presidency, and, moreover, is the biggest threat to the long-anticipated return of the PRI to Los Pinos.

Supported by numerous surveys the idea has been spread that the advantage is overwhelmingly Enrique Peña Nieto’s, with polls anticipating a PRI victory of somewhere in the neighborhood of six and eight percentage points, or about three million votes.  But other surveys, stubbornly claim this election will be close and that closure has begun, placing Lopez Obrador anywhere from eight points behind to a virtual dead heat with Pena.  Aanything can happen and there is no sure winner.

The Lopez Obradór team’s internal surveys, and the most recent polls by Berumen and Associates, are anticipating that in the closing days of the campaign, that along with a fall in support for Pena and growing support for Lopez Obrador , Josefa Vasquez Mota has gained in support, especially after her performance in the second debate.  This sets the stage for a nearly equally divided electorate on the First of July, meaning any of the three candidates, including PAN’s candidate, could win.

That was the what President Felipe Calderon meant when he said at his Tuesday Los Pinos press conference that the election “is yet to be decided” and “either candidate can win.” Calderón’s diagnosis is perfectly consistent with that from the Lopez Obradór headquarters, and Andres Manuel himself has defended the President, and his “right to free expression.”

For the first time in six years, almost by a miracle, Lopez Obrador and Felipe Calderon are in agreement and united in a common cause.  The President was out to give mouth-to mouth resuscitation to Josefina and put her back in the fight, which is exactly what the lopezobradoristas strategists are looking for. They do not want to deflate Vazquez Mota because it suits them that the PAN candidate’s support is growing, creating a three way race, and not a narrow two-man contest between Lopez Obrador and Pena.

And there is a second and striking coincidence between Calderon and AMLO reading of the election polls:  the youth factor. The President said not to underestimate the voters, especially the young voters, as a factor that could change.  And it precisely on the young voters that lopezobradorista are concentrating their strategy in the last 15 days of the campaign season.

Lopez Obrador’s performance in the # 132 Debate on  June 19 will be one step in the candidate of the left’s attempts to “lock in” the young voters support.  If they really go out to vote on the First of July, it could alter the results.  Never in the history of the country have there been so many young people registered and eligible to vote:  nearly eight million of them, three million first-time voters.

So Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador arrives at the end of this contest with one thing certain and one big question hanging over Mexico.  The certain thing is that he is not dead, and will keep fighting up to the final count.  The big question is what will happen if there is a close election where the estimated three to five percent advantage anticipated by Lopez Obrador  from the youth vote, is not in his favor?   Will a narrow defeat unleash a post-election conflict?

* Whether it has changed its polling methodology since 2010, but I did remember that Consultas Mitofsky, the most quoted of the polling organizations (and the one used by most foreign press reports), vastly under-estimated support for PAN-PRD coalitions in the 2010 elections. Whether there is a built in bias towards the PRI in the way polling is done I can’t say, but the polls mentioned by President Calderón and the Lopez Obradór team show their respective candidates in this election having about the same level of support as their coalition candidates actually did in the states where there was a joint PRD-PAN ticket in 2010. That is, IF Mitofsky and similar polls are overcounting PRI by the same level they did in 2010, Peña Nieto would have been polling about 5 to 10  points and PAN and PRD together polling 10 to 15 percent more. Depending on how that split works out, any one of the candidates could be in the lead.

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