For Mexican presidential front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Sunday’s election must have been bittersweet.
The movement he founded just three years ago came close to unseating the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party in its heartland: President Enrique Pena Nieto’s home state of Mexico.
Yet coming up three percentage points short left Lopez Obrador’s Morena party with none of the nation’s 31 governor’s offices and no access to potential funding that such power provides for national campaigns. Under such conditions, if Lopez Obrador is going to win the presidency next July, tapping into voter outrage at graft, crime and Donald Trump won’t be enough. He’ll need to broaden his appeal and curtail his threats against an establishment that he condemns as the “mafia of power.”
“To do that, he would need to change his entire style of the past 15 to 20 years,” said Jorge Chabat, a political scientist at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching, a Mexico City-based university. “When your speech is extremely confrontational, it’s difficult to expand your support beyond your close circle of ‘true believers.’ And that’s what you need to win.”