The start of an election year is just around the corner away and already pollsters in Argentina are testing out possible scenarios for the presidential race.
President Mauricio Macri faces an uphill battle in his fight for re-election, particularly against a former contender in the 2015 race, Sergio Massa, one poll suggests.
Macri would lose to the dissident Peronist leader in a run-off vote, an Isonomía poll found. Its phone survey with voters gave Massa a four-point lead over Macri. To be exact, 43 percent of voters would vote Massa against the 39 percent who would opt for Macri, the poll suggested.
Macri would also lose a run-off vote against Governor of Salta province Juan Manual Urtubey and former Buenos Aires governor Felipe Solá.
His only chance to win, according to the poll, would be against former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, with 47 percent of survey participants preferring Macri over 39 percent who would vote CFK.
When it came to voters' overall assessment of Macri's presidency, the numbers were even worse for the president, with the poll revealing 61 percent of voters disapproved of his administration compared to 37 percent who approved of it. Fifty-nine percent had a positive image of Macri as an individual leader, against 33 percent of voters who viewed him in a negative light, the poll found.
Fernández de Kirchner's presidencies were remembered in similar terms among voters, with 52 percent approving of her leadership against 45 percent who did not.
Despite having ruled out any interest in the presidency, current Buenos Aires governor María Eugenía Vidal would be a safer bet as a candidate for Macri's ruling Cambiemos coalition. She would secure a 14-percent advantage over Fernández de Kirchner at the polls, with 40 percent versus CFK's 26 percent, Isonomía reported. Meanwhile, her individual approval ratings among voters were practically the opposite of Macri's: 59 percent positive against 33 percent negative.
The Macri campaign is betting on disunity in the Peronist movement. A broad church of alliances and ideologies, it has struggled since Macri's election in 2015 to reconcile its many conflicting opinions about whether Fernández de Kirchner should hold a leadership role into the future. The former president has a solid support base of around 30 percent of the electorate, according to a number of polls and studies.
However, if the latest Isonomía poll were anything to go by, the prospects of a Peronist win would be greater if Fernández de Kirchner chose not to run in 2019 as a presidential candidate, since in a first-round contest Macri would secure 34 percent against CFK's 27 percent and Massa's 20 percent.
The dark horse in the 2019 presidential election is former Economy minister Roberto Lavanga.
Seen by many as a unifying force in a divided Argentina, the respected former official with diplomatic experience has a 46 percent approval rating among voters against 24 percent disapproval. However, 19 percent of voters failed to recognise him, Isonomía reported.