Elections this year in 13 states will necessarily act as a filter ahead of the 2018 presidential contest, which unofficially got off to an unusually early start that predates even last year’s midterms thanks to a combination of Peña administration setbacks, the unrelenting stumping of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and uncertainty as to whether nominally independent candidates and minor parties could be determining factors.
A GEA-ISA survey of voters in December, involving a series of hypothetical presidential fields, showed López Obrador with the strongest and most loyal base (17% to 20% supporters), and in a tight three-way contest against the strongest potential nominees of both the PAN (Margarita Zavala) and the incumbent PRI (Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong or Eruviel Ávila). Independent Jaime “El Bronco” Rodriguez, and the only potential nominee of PRD in the exercise (Miguel Ángel Mancera) trailed far behind, between 6% and 8%.
The GEA-ISA survey also showed that the list of characteristics voters most want presidential candidates to embody is topped by someone who “makes good on promises”, “is prepared” for the job, and is “close to the people”. Only 4% chose “critical of the government” as their preferred virtue, and a mere 10% said “being honest” was the most significant quality in a presidential candidate.
One clear conclusion we can draw is that the 2018 election is wide open both in terms of potential nominees and final outcome, unlike the 2006 and 2012 contests, in which there were two clear frontrunners. We need to see if any potential independent candidates will form part of the mix, but the strongest possibility (El Bronco), is unlikely to significantly expand his support base, despite his considerable media campaigns, unless his administration in Nuevo León produces convincing results.
We can also get a clearer picture of just how strong a chance the three main contending forces might enjoy once we see how their respective alliances take shape. The campaign choices of the PRD, which remains deeply immersed in an internal crisis, could play a significant role in deciding which of the big three campaigns wins in 2018, as could alliances involving other, lesser parties.
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