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ARGENTINA | 28-08-2023 14:48

Sergio Massa embarks on post-PASO search for votes

As the ruling coalition presidential candidate travels to Brazil with an economic agenda, Massa’s campaign plans for the general election are ramping up.

Although he arrived in Brazil with his economy minister's suit on, Sergio Massa cannot escape Argentina’s electoral campaign. The PASO primaries are still fresh in the mind and the ruling coalition’s presidential candidate is still waiting for the final count. Massa believes that when the final result is released, his main opponent, Javier Milei, could fall below the 30 percent he currently has and that Unión por la Patria could close what is only a small gap.

Massa is moving into new terrain and he has already planned the second stage of the campaign. While in Brasília, he is seeking new funds and bilateral agreements with the help of an allied head of state, as Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has already shown himself to be.

"How many messages did I record?" asked Massa late Sunday as he boarded the three-hour flight taking him to the Brazilian capital. He campaign team said there were 13 messages for 12 measures announced. They were all recorded the same day from his home in Tigre, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. The post-devaluation measures were agreed with the consent of President Alberto Fernández and Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Massa, the Frente Renovador leader, talks almost daily with Cristina – the head of the Senate knew a month ago that the minister would devalue after the elections and they agreed on measures so that the blow would not affect citizens’ pockets so much.

Massa and his team decided that each of the announcements would be communicated via social media, that world that Javier Milei dominates and that the minister admits that he is arriving late to. From Monday onwards, the ministers of different portfolios were to be rolled out to advance the details of the measures. 

The election is on everyone’s mind. "We didn't see it coming," provincial governors repeat to Massa when discussing the low percentages obtained by Unión por la Patria in Peronist territories. In many of them Milei came first. Massa has been speaking with various provincial leaders – Gustavo Saenz (Salta), Osvaldo Jaldo (Tucumán) Gustavo Melella (Tierra de Fuego) and Gustavo Bordet (Entre Ríos) – to coordinate actions. "I'm the one who has to go out and look for votes, to convince them, to make people want to vote for me," Massa admits. 

The campaign team remains the same, but Massa is adding other voices. Three US consultants who usually advise the Democrats and worked for the former president of the United States, Barack Obama, have had meetings with Unión por la Patria’s team to strategise about the second stage of the campaign. Massa will follow a strategy convinced that Javier Milei has already made it to the November run-off and that Patricia Bullrich will be the one pushed out. However, in recent days he has been repeating that in politics "to consider someone dead you have to take their pulse ten times.”

Massa has also made progress in his search for the political support necessary to be competitive in the run-off and the trip to Brazil is the first example. The delegation includes lawmakers Natalia De La Sota and Alejandro ‘Topo’ Rodríguez, part of the Hacemos por Nuestro País party led by fellow presidential candidate Córdoba Province Governor Juan Schiaretti. If the election goes to a run-off, the two deputies have already announced that they will not be neutral. They have spoken about this with other legislators in the bloc who could follow the same path too.

Those in charge of building political will are Eduardo ‘Wado’ De Pedro, Malena Galmarini, Raúl Pérez, and Juanjo Álvarez. Many of Massa’s delegation in Brazil are convinced that the Unión Cívica Radical will express themselves against Milei when it is time. The campaign chiefs believe that the part of the opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition led by Mauricio Macri will support the libertarian leader, but that others, perhaps even Radicalism as a whole, will not say that Massa should be supported but will express concern about Milei. They do not believe there will be a unified position in the opposition if their candidate fails to make it to the second round.

Rosario Ayerdi

Rosario Ayerdi

Jefa de Política. Mail: [email protected]

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