One of the more salient aspects of last night’s PSUV … er Panorama Debate was how all of the candidates missed golden opportunities to pander to the opposition’s hard-core base.
Two examples come to mind, both from the latter stages.
The first came when Leopoldo López was asked, and I’m paraphrasing, how he could have sat down with Colombia’s former President Álvaro Uribe, when he was being questioned for human rights abuses. The journalist went so far as to say that Uribe was in bed with paramilitaries and killed peasants to later disguise them as FARC guerrilla fighters.
Now, there are probably two things the opposition’s base is united on: their hatred of Hugo Chávez, and their love of Álvaro Uribe. This was a golden oportunity for López to respond something along the lines of:
“Álvaro Uribe is a democrat who accepted the independence of the institutions of his country and left power when he had to. He provided security and prosperity for all Colombians, and he laid the groundwork for that country’s bouyant current situation. Colombians rewarded him with approval ratings of almost 80%. Colombia has a lot to teach us about how to make a country safer and open to investment. The only places where Uribe is some sort of pariah is in the far-left circles of the government that you, Fulana de Tal, obviously mingle in. Álvaro Uribe is a defender of freedom in the continent and I’m extremely proud of having met with him.”
Instead, López mumbled his way through an answer, basically saying that Uribe knows how to fight crime, and that all other things are internal issues for Colombians.
The other point came when Maria Corina Machado was asked the (sexist) question about what she sees in Dilma Roussef and Cristina Kirchner that she would like to have. Here is an answer that would have left the base giddy with excitement:
“From Dilma I would like to have a prosperous, democratic country, that understands that neither extreme capitalism nor the extreme communism that we are going towards are the answers to our people. And from Cristina, I would like to have a friend who sends me suitcases of dollars to finance my campaign. That way it wouldn’t be so hard to raise the funds I need.”
Instead, Maria Corina sort of mumbled her way through a non-answer on that one.
These two points highlight a trend in the primaries that is becoming, surprisingly, more pronounced: nobody is throwing any bones to the base, and they are feeling mighty lonely.
This is the right strategy for the front-runner, who is already thinking about the general election, but it is the wrong one for the guys (and gal) at the bottom of the ladder.