Without Mauricio Macri in the race and with a political and economic crisis tilting the field towards the opposition, Together for Change faces the dilemma of where to direct its campaign strategy: moderation or radicalization. Beyond the competition itself, these elections put into play two ways of conceiving and practicing political communication, embodied in the speeches of Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Patricia Bullrich.
Years ago we lived in the era of catch all candidates. The success seemed to derive from the ability to collect votes from the most diverse and heterogeneous social sectors possible. While political marketing reached its peak, the aspiration was to seduce citizens outside party identities.
This old paradigm entered into crisis all over the world. Many campaigns no longer start with the independents. The strategy is to expand but from a solid, convinced and mobilizing position. Boris Johnson, Donald Trump or Jair Bolsonaro showed that radicalized discourses can beat centrist campaigns.
In Argentina, since 2015 there is no debate about the fact that our society can also be grouped into ideologically antagonistic poles that concentrate the majority of the electorate. Polarization ceased to be thought of as the perverse machination of a government influenced by populist theorists and became what Quevedo and Ramírez define as “the law of gravity of contemporary politics.” An independent variable that imposes limits on electoral strategies.
Mora y Araujo insisted that the function of the polls was not to predict results. Indeed, opinion polls are not high-definition photographs of reality, but illustrative sketches useful for explaining trends and planning courses of political action, including campaigns.
And what do these polls say? In the first place, that adding the adhesions obtained by Bullrich inside Juntos por el Cambio and Javier Milei outside, the extreme positions dominate the opposition spectrum.
This subjects Larreta to a succession of dilemmas. If he toughens his talk, he risks losing position and losing moderate supporters. Instead, if he persists in his centrist strategy, his internal rival grows. If, despite this, he manages to win the primaries, Milei threatens to displace him as the first opposition force in the first round.
And, if he finally overcomes all these obstacles and reaches the ballotage, many libertarians who are sympathetic to Bullrich would prefer to vote blank rather than for the mayor of Buenos Aires. Even against Kirchnerism. This contradicts one of the main arguments of Larretismo: that its candidate is the most competitive in the second round.
Of course, once that stage has been reached, Larreta could well deny the anti-crack message of its launch and focus belatedly on the hard ones, until then postponed. This attitude, however, may earn him the distrust of voters close to radicalism who want to believe that the PRO’s agenda does not include, for example, cuts to the university budget.
These and other equations allow the Government to still be in competition despite having approval levels similar to those of the Alliance in 2001. We name Trump and Bolsonaro. Both began their re-election campaigns at a severe disadvantage. They ended up losing by tiny margins.
Although in 2019 the Frente de Todos triumphed comfortably in the first round, its campaign was planned to win the ballotage, knowing that polarization could save even the worst of adversaries. The objective was to make clear the differences with Macri and highlight only those that brought together majority social consensus.
Selective contrast but contrast nonetheless. Alberto’s moderate was headed but Cristina’s omnipresence was close. Known history. A success to win, not to govern. Faced with the challenges of the next government, what options does Cambiemos have?
* Political consultant. In charge of the communication of the last two presidential elections of Peronism.
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