The Rally of All Rallies

He may win the election Sunday. He very well may not. But there is no doubt as Mexico's 2006 presidential contest comes to a close that Andrés Manuel López Obrador knows how to turn out a crowd -- not the bused in, free-lunch and T-shirt kind of crowd either. But the you're-one-of-us, fervent believers kind of crowd that stands in the rain, next to smelly porta-potties just to hear the same stump speech one more time.

In two decades of covering U.S. politics, including national conventions and Bill Clinton's two victorious runs, never have I seen a crowd like the one gathered in Mexico City's zocalo Wednesday evening for the grand finale of this contentious, cantankerous, down-to-the-wire race. Emerging from the subway, my traveling partners and I could barely make it above ground. López Obrador fans, some gathered hours earlier, stood cheek by jowl to hear the closing speech of the former mayor's campaign.

Campaign Conexión used to do crowd estimates in the states by literally counting a block of people and then multiplying. Here in one of the most densely populated cities in the world, that's just not possible. Various press and police estimates put the gathering at a few hundred thousand people, jam-packed in what is believed to be the second or third largest public square in the world behind Red Square in Moscow and possibly Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Let's put it this way, there were people everywhere.

AMLO supporters cheer in Mexico's zocalo plaza Wednesday. (Dario Lopez-Mills / AP)

Supporters perched on balconies and rooftops. They plopped younsters on their shoulders and gripped grandparents hands for fear of getting trampled in the sea of humanity. There were yellow caps, homemade signs warning of possible election fraud and, when the rain started anew, bright yellow ponchos as flimsy as a cheap trash bag selling for 5 pesos apiece.

Substantively, AMLO, as he is known, had nothing new to offer. That was okay, they'd heard it all before.

College for all, food vouchers for the elderly, new oil refineries, slashing government waste, and -- to boisterous applause -- no more sweet pensions for ex-presidentes. He walked off the stage in a shower of confetti, but the music and singing lasted for hours.

Now, What?

So that's it? The campaign's over? By law, candidates in Mexico must cease all wooing and schmoozing four days prior to the voting. I'm still not sure what's going to happen here, but Campaign Conexión is hoping for a nice pre-Election Day nap.

The Mexican punditocracy meanwhile, perhaps nervous about really screwing up, has been backpedaling on all the death-of-the-PRI talk.

Roy Campos, president of Mitofsky Consulting, says conditions are ripe for Roberto Madrazo to "give the great surprise" and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Now that would be a story.

Roberto Madrazo rallies in Veracruz on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Madrazo's doing his own part to dampen speculation that he and his party are down and out. The fight, he says, is between two candidates, but the election is between three.

"Mexico cannot return to the political adventure that it has lived since 2000," Madrazo said, speaking at the Monument of the Revolution in Mexico, where thousands of people had gathered to support him and the party's candidate for Mexico City mayor, Beatriz Paredes."Mexico can no longer afford an excursion to the right, or to the left."

All that confidence isn't swaying some analysts.

With all the attention AMLO's show was garnering, Felipe Calderón struggled valiantly to stay in the news with promises that he won't scare off foreign investment. Most polls suggest that López Obrador and Calderon are in a statistical dead heat, all within the margin of error.

Will the Real López Obrador Please Stand Up?

Journalists from the U.S. and U.K., all hepped up about López Obrador's momentum, are trying to dissect this guy. The easiest analysis is that he's cut from the same cloth as other Latin American lefties.

"If Mr López Obrador wins, Latin America's much talked about leftward march - through Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and Chile - will have reached the United States' back door. If he loses, in the wake of electoral disappointments in Colombia and Peru, it will look like the retreat has begun.

"So though his rhetoric can sound radical, Mr López Obrador's policy proposals are hardly revolutionary."

Campaign Conexión knows better than most, that reporters don't write the headlines. So I commiserate with Alec Russell, whose fine dispatch was topped with this clunker: "US quakes as Mexico seeks new messiah."

"It is the plight of Mexico's millions of poor rather than dreams of forging an anti-Yankee axis that energises his campaign," Russell observes in the Telegraph.

Noted historian Enrique Krauze continues to cause a stir on both sides of the border with his analysis that López Obrador runs with a messianic complex.

"Millions of poor Mexicans, particularly in the center and south of the country, see in him what he sees in himself: a bestower of manna who will provide the poor with cash handouts and all the services of a great welfare state," Krauze writes in the New York Times. "His oratory increasingly blends the theological with the revolutionary: he has repeated that he will 'purify national life,' inaugurating a new era of 'historic transcendence' in which 'those on top,' 'those with money,' will no longer oppress 'those on the bottom.' Believe him: he's a man of his word."

Let the Napping Begin

So now the election observers roll into town and the airwaves go silent. It's back to telenovelas and World Cup soccer. Somehow I suspect we'll still have some developments to share with you in the next few days. But if not...ZZZZZZZZ.

By |  June 29, 2006; 11:45 AM ET  | Category:  Campaign Conexión
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Calderon va a ganar por mas de un millon de votos.
1.- El voto por Calderon esta mas concentrado en el Norte de Mexico. Ahi estan mas acostumbrados a votar que a hacer manifestaciones. O mitines.Y para que hablar del votante panista para quien votar es un deber absoluto.
2.- Los votos que definiran esta eleccion son los siete u ocho millones de "indecisos". La mayoria no va a votar por una ruptura del status quo. Eso favorece por mucho a Calderon.
3.- Lopez Obrador es un mal candidato. En un ano paso de "indestructible" a pelear una tercera parte de los votos duros o de los ya decididos. En un ano mostro sus enormes limitaciones. Y termino peleando con el Consejo Empresarial, como era de esperarse.
4.- El voto en el Sur de la nacion esta mas dividido entre el PRI y el PRD que en el centro, entre PRD y PAN. Lo veremos.

Posted by: Eduardo Valle. | June 29, 2006 01:18 PM

Eduardo Valle:

Y que dice tu bola de cristal sobre el campeon del mundo de soccer?

A mi no me sorprende en lo absoluto la "caida" en popularidad de AMLO; si gasto millones de pesos en machacar cotidianamente en los medios electronicos el infundio de que Eduardo Valle es un peligro para Mexico... La gente peor informada terminara pensandolo, aunque sea una mentira; no hablemos entonces de mal candidato; cuando mas hablemos de malas (o "buenas," aunque insidiosas) campanhas. Desafortunadamente ahora en Mexico, como en EUA, los candidatos se "venden" como jabones...

Tampoco a nadie sorprende que el "patriotico" CCE ataque a AMLO; lo que hacen es defender sus privilegios, y no creo que hayan empezado ahora. Su alianza con el PAN es anheja. Lo que es una verguenza es su desafio al IFE. Y luego se quejan de que AMLO es autoritario...

(Sorry, English-speaking folks, but I thought I should rebute the previous comment in Spanish)

Posted by: pasilla | June 29, 2006 02:28 PM


Posted by: Jack Thompson | June 29, 2006 03:52 PM

A cada gente que le pregunto por quien va a votar, me dice que por Calderon. Confio en que asi sea. Seamos honestos: Los pobres no salen de pobres si no hay capital detras de ellos. Yo veo ejemplos todos los dias en mi vida diara. Claro,es comodo pensar en un gran estado benefactor, pero es evidente que los estados benefactores que han existido han sido paises ricos - Gran Bretaña, Francia, Italia, todos han pasado por su etapa de capitalismo salvaje antes de poder elevar el nivel de vida de sus habitantes. Nosotros todavia tenemos que pasar por ahi y generar riqueza, antes de pensar en repartirla. AMLO no tiene ni idea. Yo no quiero vivir en Cuba, ni en Venezuela, ni en Palestina. Yo no quiero ver gente muriendose de hambre en la calle. Yo no quiero ver profesionales andando de taxistas en la calle. Para que eso cambie, no hay varitas magicas, hay caminos hacia la creacion de instituciones - estas llevan generaciones. Ni un paso atras . No a AMLO.

Posted by: Hugo Camacho | June 29, 2006 08:05 PM

Interesting remarks. Let's be honest. Supply-side economics does not work, has never worked, nor will it ever work. For any of you who believe otherwise, I urge you to read about David Stockman's remarks in Atlatnic Monthly, when he admitted as much. With respect to Calderon, his tenure would be more of the same for Mexico. What is "the same"? Since 1982, the Mexican economy, on a GDP/Capita basis, has grown 0.6% a year. During the first five years of Fox's tenure, it has grown 0.8% a year. Is this what Mexico needs? Please contrast these growth rates with those of Asia, which have grown in the upper single figures since 1982. What is the difference between Mexico and Asia.

Asian economies have not adopted the laissez-faire econonomics that Mexico has embraced since 1982. Instead, Asia has implemented Democratic Party-type economic policies.

These are precisely the type of policies AMLO will institute as of December. Please recall that the United States was not a world power until Roosevelt's New Deal. How did the American RightWing react to the New Deal? The same way the Mexican RightWing has reacted to AMLO's economic program. They called Roosevelt a Socialist and Communist, and traitor to his class.

Frankly, I'm amazed that some Mexicans (as I've said before, I have dual citizenship, have worked in Mexico City's financial sector, and travel to that city often) can vote for Calderon, and his regressive economic policies.

Are they so content with mediocrity?

Posted by: Richard | June 29, 2006 08:19 PM

Well said, Richard. Policies in place in Mexico since the early 90's had produced 3 or 4 multimillionaires, while more than 50% of the population survives in poverty. If this is not "wild capitalism" I don't know what it is. Besides, these policies have forced the unstoppable migration of fellow Mexicans to the US. I say it because I went through it. A majority of votes for Calderon will be based on irrational fears, fears artfully propagated by Calderon's campaign. I'ts hard for me to understand how anybody can vote for somebody who recurs to such nauseating tactics to win. But democracy has implicit in it the possibility of voting for a rascal. Nevertheless, you fellow Mexicans who can, please go out and vote. Better an elected rascal than an imposed rascal.

Posted by: pasilla | June 30, 2006 09:10 AM

Are you really comparing FDR with AMLO? C'mon. Rooselvet never organized a mob to stop oil fields from pumping, nor had one of its closest political allies caught on tape taking bribes - and even the strings attached to them. Better a useless president, than a thief.

Posted by: Hugh | June 30, 2006 02:41 PM

Comments like Hugh's are of the type that generate more heat than light. No evidence is offered to back up the accusation that Mr. López is a "thief." Of the two "close political allies" that Hugh mentions, one is in jail and the other was subject to the judicial precess and set free. Guilt by association doesn't work here. We want hard facts. With the intensy scrutiny that Mr. Lopez has suffered from the PAN, wouldn't it be time for this party to have plenny of evidence to support any accusations of corruption? Otherwise, this class of comments are no more than innuendo. And by the way, I agree: President Roosvelt didn't block the entrance to oil fields; but Mr. Lopez didn't also catch polio... What a lame (no pun intended) comparison!

Posted by: pasilla | June 30, 2006 03:00 PM

According to the US RightWing, Roosevelt was a "Socialist" and a "Communist". As to Roosevelt's faults, I can't deny he had an authoritarian streak in him as well. Have we all forgotten the attempted packing of the Supreme Court, or his mulling over the nationalization of the US banking system?

With respect to economic policies, both offer very similar programs. Both realize that we need a robust middle-class to prosper, and are not afraid to have government intervene to assure this. Thanks to the New Deal and the Democratic Party, the US became the envy of the world. And with AMLO at the helm, Mexico will become the envy of Latin America.

Posted by: Richard | June 30, 2006 03:06 PM

Only a mentally challenged person will believe in the innocence of a Governor who appoints corrupt officials for top positions in his government. Yes, after apperaing in videos taking bribes from Ahumada, Imaiz and Bejarano were tried in court, but the fiscal presenting charges was working for Lopez Obrador too, and they presented a very weak case so that these corrupted partners of Lopez Obrador could go free right away. Ahumada is still in prison, and will continue there because the same fiscal attorney of DF presented all kind of charges against him, and by the way, they won't allow him to give any interviews.
Oh! But Lopez Obrador is not like those corrupted guys in the video, they were his friends and they worked for him for years and they are members of the same party and they reported to him in government and they were with him in the campaign and so on and on, but NO SIR! Lopez Obrador is a clean and honest person, he is the victim of a plot. Yeah Right!

Posted by: Jose Flores | July 1, 2006 11:12 AM

Only a person with a regressive mindset can believe that Calderon is the answer to Mexico's problems. Here you have a man who believes that a "flat tax" would actually help a country with HUGE problems in income distribution. Here you have a man who has publicly stated that he doesn't believe scientists who cliam that the morning-after pill does not induce abortion. Here you have a man who faciliated the enrichment of his family members, at taxpayers expense.

Never has there been such a danger to Mexico, as that personfified in Calderon.

Mexico has two options tomorrow. Electing a progressive, center-left politician who renewed Mexico City, espoused Democratic Party fiscal resp, and left the office of Mayor with approval ratings in the 80s, or opting for an UltraConservative person who espouses the Republican Party's laissez-faire economic philosophy, and its RightWing holier-than-thou attempts to impose a theocracy on this great nation.

The choice couldn't be clearer.

Posted by: Richard | July 1, 2006 12:49 PM

Definitivamente tanto Calderón como AMLO tienen cola que les pisen. Yo pienso, o quiero pensar que independientemente de el que gane, el avance del pais será limitado, pero habrá avance.
Lo más importante es que este domingo la gente salga a votar, ya que esto significa que nos importa nuestro país, que no queremos que los demás decidan por nosotros.
Y yo creo que el cambio que todos queremos no va a venir de los políticos, sino de la sociedad, es decir, de nosotros mismos. La gente del gobierno solo es un reflejo de la gente de nuestra sociedad.México es, lo que su gente es.
Así que ánimo que sí se puede.....y a votar se ha dicho.

Posted by: Hebert | July 1, 2006 09:20 PM

Some interesting comments here. Looks like some of Chris Cillizza's left-wing wackos have found there way her, what with the cliched name calling of Richard.

I spent a week in Mexico City and did some informal polling with a number of folks from many walks of life. I fully expected that the working class folks such as taxi drivers, hotel workers, etc, would support AMLO. Though some indeed did voice support, I was surprised by the number who said they were backing Calderon.

It's the turnout, stupid. While AMLO has the masses, their lower turnout, coupled by votes siphoned off by PRI, should give Calderon the win, though we may not know the result for days.

VivaPAN, VivaCalderon06!

Posted by: vivabush04OH | July 2, 2006 05:24 PM

Parece que mi "bola de cristal" dio buenos resultados. El proceso, en general, se dio tal como se pronostico. Y Calderon va a ganar con un millon de votos, ahora que se limpie la eleccion frente al fraude perredista en Morelos, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala y Distrito Federal. Lo veremos.

Posted by: Eduardo Valle | July 4, 2006 09:53 AM

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