Politics: In a context of lackluster campaigns, the first presidential debate probably only had a marginal impact

MEXICO - Report 15 Apr 2024 by Guillermo Valdes and Francisco González

With Xóchitl Gálvez trailing by 17 points and only 8% of registered voters still undecided according to the latest El Financiero poll, and less than six weeks left to the campaign, time is running out for the main opposition presidential candidate to begin making significant inroads with undecided and independent voters and eat into the Morena nominee’s lead. However, both major campaigns have been so lackluster as to leave voter preferences largely unchanged in recent months. That made the first of the three presidential debates of crucial importance for the PAN-PRI-PRD nominee. But even many supporters of the opposition coalition expressed bitter disappointment at Xóchitl’s performance on April 7.

While Sheinbaum was criticized for the coldness with which she lied about many of her accomplishments in office and for evading questioning about her failures, she got high marks for her "presidential demeanor," mettle in deflecting attacks and the extent of her composure. Gálvez, meanwhile, was criticized even by many of her supporters for neglecting to press her attacks over scandals surrounding the incumbent camp, including Sheinbaum herself. Although she raised some attractive proposals, Xóchitl failed to explain the sort of national project she offers and what kind of government she would preside over, a delicate topic given the extent to which the parties that are running her are discredited in the eyes of a majority of voters and that even she has admitted can be “unpresentable.”

This week we offer an overview of the way both campaigns are being conducted and an initial assessment of the extent to which the debate may impact the future course of the contest.

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