Mexico’s leading presidential candidate is handsome, popular and still a mystery

The Washington Post, 5/14/12

In his campaign for president, Mexico’s handsome front-runner, Enrique Peña Nieto, looks down from towering billboards with a movie-star smile. “Tu me conoces,” he says. You know me. But the fact is, many don’t.

With the July 1 presidential vote only weeks away, Peña Nieto holds a solid double-digit lead in the polls. But Mexican voters and U.S. observers confess that they do not really know what the candidate stands for. Nor are they sure how he would govern Mexico, a vital trade partner for the United States, Mexico’s ally in the fight against drug cartels. “Do people really know him?” asked independent pollster Roy Campos. “No, but they want to get to know him.”

Disparaged by his opponents as a pretty puppet and telegenic con man, the 45-year-old Peña Nieto is a masterful retail politician who, through message discipline and sophisticated marketing, has made himself the new face of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Known as the PRI, the autocratic political machine fell from power in 2000 after running Mexico with a blend of corruption and coercion for 71 years.

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