Shades of Bush-Gore 2000?

The word of the day had been "tranquila," very good news in a country where many had predicted boycotts, pickets and uprisings this Election Day.

But then things got interesting. At 8:20 p.m. CT, just 20 minutes after the polls closed, it looked as though Roberto Madrazo was going to do the right thing and concede. Madrazo has been trailing for months and his appearance on television hinted that it was going to be an early night here in Mexico.

But Madrazo, in open-necked shirt and leather blazer, was silent. He let PRI party president Mariano Palacios Alcocer do the talking. And his message was a painful déjà vu. Shades of 2000 -- too close to call!

Even worse, the party tossed out on its keister in 2000 and unlikely to regain the presidency this time around, was issuing a not-so-subtle threat to Mexican election officials not to jump the gun tonight.

"Be careful, you could endanger stability of the nation," he warned, with Madrazo looking on.

Televisa, the 800-pound Mexican media gorilla, was also holding off on projections, announcing the presidential contest was within the margin of error. These guys weren't going to make a mistake like their U.S. counterparts.

Similarly, El Universal was playing it safe. But Reforma, with less than 2 percent of the vote counted, was showing Felipe Calderón comfortably ahead. (Warning: Do not go to the bank with that.)

And like that dreadful Election Night 2000 in the states, the candidates were driving around in the pouring rain, a clear sign even they didn't quite know what to do.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has seemed to be the man with the momentum in the closing weeks, changed his plans back and forth. First he was supposed to go from his home to the Hotel Marquis. But then he rode to his campaign headquarters. Then back in the car to head to the hotel. Television helicopters captured it all. One camera got close enough to see a tense-looking López Obrador rocking in the front seat, talking on a cell phone.

A few minutes later, López Obrador sent spokesman Jesus Ortega out to announce on national television that the former Mexico City mayor would not come out until after an expected 11 p.m. update by the Mexican election commission. Ugh.

For much of the day, a crowd of a few hundred supporters gathered outside López Obrador's modest apartment building in the Copilco neighborhood of Mexico City. Some said they had traveled miles for just a glimpse of the man they voted for. Many chased after his SUV as he rode downtown.

Cameras had a more difficult time spotting Calderón, who was hunkered down at his campaign headquarters.

Mexican media provided blanket coverage from late in the afternoon through the night. Major newspapers such as Reforma and El Universal also constantly updated their websites with even the most minor tidbits.

Now, at 10 p.m. with the rain and wind kicking up, Campaign Conexión has lost the television satellite. Better get the No-Doz.

By |  July 2, 2006; 10:06 PM ET  | Category:  Campaign Conexión
Previous: No Booze in the Voting Booth, Por Favor | Next: Candidates Claim Victory, But Official Results Will Have to Wait

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Madrazo is either delusional or expects serious fraud to turn the election his way.

Posted by: shawn | July 2, 2006 10:45 PM

Ceci, you're the best! The coverage on Campaign Conexion has been far superior to just about everything else I've found in the U.S. media (and for that matter, much of the Mexican media).

Keep up the good work as we head into 'Indecision 2006'!!!

Posted by: Lito | July 2, 2006 10:46 PM

I hope there is a result and that it clearly shows Calderon the winner.

Posted by: vivabush04OH | July 2, 2006 11:08 PM

The information your are talking about REFORMA does not correspond to the newspapers´s projections, but to the IFE´s PREP -that is available on the IFE´s web page-. I do recommend you to reconsider your comment regarding that matter. "But Reforma, with less than 2 percent of the vote counted, was showing Felipe Calderón comfortably ahead. (Warning: Do not go to the bank with that.)"

Posted by: José Luis Leyva | July 2, 2006 11:09 PM

REFORMA just declared that the information of it´s exit poll, is not sufficient to declare a winner.

Posted by: José Luis Leyva | July 2, 2006 11:11 PM

It is exciting to see the Post paying attention to an election in Mexico.

Posted by: Terry Cohn | July 3, 2006 01:41 AM

This is a reminder that last September's German election was also a real cliffhanger that required months to sort out.

Posted by: John Froelich | July 3, 2006 02:20 AM

The incipient democracy in Mexico is at stake. Clearly, patience and political maturity are the signs of the times.

Posted by: Albert P. Boix | July 3, 2006 12:25 PM

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