Futbol Sorrows and a Neck-and-Neck Race

A sad, sad few days here in Mexico. The national team lost to Portugal in Wednesday's World Cup match.


Why is Campaign Conexión passing along soccer results. Well, "futbol" is the hottest thing here, and sometimes it's the only way presidential candidates can get any attention.

"Midway through Mexico's World Cup contest against Portugal," the Los Angeles Times's Richard Boudreaux reported, "Felipe Calderón made his play of the day. 'I will be the jobs president,' the candidate declared in a 30-second spot to millions of Mexicans glued to the televised match."

Though a diehard fan, Calderón in campaign appearances tried to remind voters of the difference between a game and a presidential election. "Our destiny will be played out here, not in Germany," he chastised, according to El Universal.

On the Ground Video

Watch a washingtonpost.com video on Mexico's presidential election -- clips of Calderón and Obrador on the campaign trail, interviews with voters and more.

Back to the Campaign

Spinning, spinning, spinning. Private and public polling numbers are flying so fast that Campaign Conexión is getting dizzy. With just nine days remaining until the election, it is obvious this will be a down-to-the-wire finish.

Dominating the cover of the Mexico City tabloid Milenio is the paper's survey giving former mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador a 5-point lead over PAN's Calderón. But the most entertaining notion to emerge from the data is the idea that PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo is still alive!

Inside are a half-dozen charts that are of equal or greater import than the presidential horserace. Milenio reports, for instance, that while López Obrador, nominee of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, holds a comfortable lead in the presidential contest, the PRD's senatorial candidates are trailing. The graphic charting Calderón's popularity since January shows a line that spikes on May 1 and then steadily slides in the subsequent month.

Of course, for every poll showing AMLO up, there seems to be one giving Calderón the edge. Among likely voters, Grupo Economistas y Asociados found Calderón leads 41 percent to 36 percent. And no surprise: Calderón says his campaign's internal polling shows him with the edge.

For an overview of Mexico surveys, called "encuestas," take a look at this collection. But I think the Houston Chronicle got it just about right when it noted that virtually all of the polls are within the margin of error, "making the race too close to call."

So why do we spend all that money on polls?

The Big Close

All campaigning for the July 2 election ends on the night of June 28, so the candidates are frantically criss-crossing the country in what Mexicans call the "campaign closing." On the trail Wednesday, Calderón was wooing indigenous voters in Chiapas, while López Obrador was still trying to soothe jittery nerves in the corporate sector.

After being battered for more than 2 weeks about his "uncomfortable brother-in-law," Calderón now claims the charges that his wife's brother engineered sweet deals with government agencies has not damaged his candidacy.

From our perch here in Mexico City, that seems a bit hard to swallow, but it does appear that conservative Calderón has finally been able to change the subject.

Calderón, a short technocrat who runs on the slogan "manos limpias," or clean hands, promised residents and tourists in Acapulco that if elected he'll clean up the resort town -- literally. A contracting dispute has halted trash pick-up in Acapulco for nearly 3 weeks and speaking from a portside Zocolo (or large public square), Calderón chortled: "All the way over here we can smell the garbage."

At a stop in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Calderón said he intends to continue "foxismo" policies, embracing the record of President Vicente Fox.

However, if the Milenio poll showing Obrador ahead is to be believed, that might not be a wise strategy. The paper found that 51 percent of the 2,000 people surveyed believe Calderón is following Fox's blueprint.

Forget El Presidente, It's the Governors Stupid

Imagine being the Big Dog for 71 years. Then a soda executive (Vicente Fox) abruptly ends that fiesta, knocking your party out of the presidency.

Now, six years later, it looks as though your new guy (Roberto Madrazo) isn't going to be able to retake the top job. What do you do?

If you're the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, you take your cues from the Democratic Party up in the United States. A cabal of PRI governors is jockeying for control of the party (a la Howard Dean) in the expectation that Madrazo will lose.

El Universal devoted an entire page Wednesday to the subject of PRI governors, demonstrating the clout they still hold. An analysis of voting patterns in the 17 Mexican states run by the PRI between 1991 and 2003 suggests that losing support of four or five of the governors could cost Madrazo 1.5 million votes.

For an alternative view, look at what Joaquin Hendricks, former PRI governor of Quintana Roo, has to say about the presidential contest.

-- Ceci Connolly

By washingtonpost.com Editors |  June 23, 2006; 7:35 AM ET  | Category:  Campaign Conexión
Previous: From The Post: Obrador Profile | Next: Antojitos: AMLO's Fiscal Discipline

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"Zocalo" is misspelled in this article. Maybe it's just typo by somebody who knows better and is reporting on the road, or maybe its the copy editor's fault, but it makes me wonder if the Post can not get someone who knows the laguage to cover the Mexican election? If you can't get the spelling right, what about the politics?

One other thing, the US coverage seems to be straining to say that the polls are cgoing all directions, but this just doesn;t seem to be true.

The Wilson Center is tracking all the major polls, and the last 5 they have posted show AMLO ahead. The margin is small but consistent, and this survey does not even include the one mentioned in this article, with AMLO sporting a 5-point lead. For the record, here is the WIlson center URL and the poll results.

Seems fair to say AMLO has an edge.

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?topic_id=5949&fuseaction=topics.item&news_id=143858#national%20polls

New Mitofsky Poll
Mitofsky , 06/23/06
The new Mitofsky poll shows AMLO in first place with 36%, followed by Calderón in second with 33% and Madrazo in third with 27%.


New Ipsos-Bimsa Poll
Ipsos-Bimsa , 06/23/06
The new Ipsos-Bimsa poll shows AMLO in first place with 36%, followed by Calderón in second with 35% and Madrazo in third with 24%.


New El Universal poll
El Universal , 06/23/06
The new El Universal poll shows López Obrador in first place with 36%, followed by Calderón in second with 34% and Madrazo in third with 26%.


New Reforma
Reforma , 06/23/06
The new Reforma poll shows López Obrador in first place with 36%, followed by Calderón in second with 34% and Madrazo in third with 25%.


New Poll by Milenio
Milenio , 06/22/06
A María de las Heras poll for Milenio shows López Obrador in first place with 35.4% followed by Felipe Calderón with 30.5% and Roberto Madrazo with 29.6%.

Posted by: db | June 23, 2006 12:08 PM

Picky, picky, that db: "The straw that is in thy brother's eye..."

Granted, all listed polls seem to favor AMLO; but waht about the margin of error?

Posted by: pasilla | June 23, 2006 01:17 PM

Like I said, "The margin is _small but consistent_," in the 5 polls I pasted, and the sixth, most recent poll, is the one with the biggest lead for AMLO.

Speaking of being picky ...

Posted by: db | June 23, 2006 03:02 PM

Read the polls with caution...remember:

- At this point in 2000, polls showed Labstida up by 3 points, and he lost by 6.

- The polls aren't showing the undecideds, who often vote against the incumbent party.

- Poor supporters of the PRI and PRD may be underrepresented in the polls

- Watch down the stretch to see if Madrazo tries to win or swings his support, implicitly or explicitly, to someone else. Madrazo has started running anti-PRD TV ads, and may still resent AMLO for protesting his gubernatorial "victory" back in Tabasco..

Posted by: Peter C | June 23, 2006 03:17 PM

Amazing that after all, the election (or at least the aftermath) will probably leave Madrazo (albeit briefly) the most important man in Mexico. It may well be up to him whether we have the 'Gran Chachalaca' or the Cristero as our next tlatoani. Let's bring back those northerners from the Revolution, not tropical messiahs or chilango apparatchiks!

Posted by: Gabriel | June 23, 2006 04:37 PM

"The margin is _small but consistent_," I only read the María de las Heras report. The margin of error is plus/minus 2.2%. Five points in this case represent a "real" difference (if the sample is truly representative). However, Peter C makes several good points.

How sad, Gabriel! How'bout a revolutionary from Michoacan State, by the name of Lazaro Cardenas?

I thought that the name of the country was Estados Unidos Mexicanos...

Posted by: pasilla | June 23, 2006 05:23 PM

I have been monitoring the polls and the average margin of error that is about 3.2% Additionally, while AMLO is currently in the lead in many of them he is rarely outside the margin of error as much as Calderon is. As to Madrazo Ideologically he is closer to AMLO than Calderon but AMLO and Madrazo have a very long history of animosity between each other. Also if the priistas decide to abanod Madrazo for another what makes you think they will listen to his recomendations. he has lost much of his credibility since he became the president of the PRI being an obvious third-place looser would only further damage his credibility. Should a prista chose to vote for another party they will most likely do so based upon there own convictions and world view. PAN if your a neo-liberal prista PRD if you are a Dino priista.

Posted by: TWB | June 24, 2006 02:53 AM

For those of us aren't on the ground, just polls' reporting is not the best way to get a feeling of the Mexican electorate. It would be a lot more helpful to learn about the electorate's attitudes and leave a little bit that focus on who is getting the so-called first, second and third places on the race.

Mexico really needs a good economic project but also a huge improvement on education opportunities and investment. Just governing issues are the bread and butter of many communities in the southern states. Security issues go well beyond robberies in the big cities and the feminicides in Juarez. So it is near sided to think only in economic and employment terms.

AMLO is definitely the favorite if you just look at the crows that have stopped his recall and his prosecution for a simply administrative violation by one of the employers of his government agency, when he was Mexico City's Mayor...

I am not sure if I would agree with the FDR model comparison because AMLO has been a student of history and politics for a long time and I would see more parallels between his project and the ideals of Mexican historic leaders such as Madero, Zapata, Justo Sierra, etc...But, maybe he is just describing his plan this way to make sense for NY and Wall Street's investors...

All set and done, Que gane el mejor! But let's just make sure that the electronic system to do the processing of votes on July 2nd doesn't crash or plays tricks on us as it happened on July 1988! When most people know Salinas stole the election...that definitely will be a set back for Mexico.

Posted by: Sara | June 24, 2006 05:51 PM

July 2nd.....almost ten PM...

RACE TO CLOSE TO CALL!

http://porgietirebiter.bravejournal.com/

Posted by: Poorgie Tirebiter | July 2, 2006 09:46 PM

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