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OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 16-02-2023 01:33

Cold war between Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Patricia Bullrich heats up

Two leading PRO party figures – Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Patricia Bullrich – are immersed in an opinion poll battle as they jostle for position ahead of the August PASO primaries. The City Mayor knows that the typical UCR voter is closer to him, but former security minister is making Radical hardliners her focus.

Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and PRO chair Patricia Bullrich are facing off – in opinion polls, political machines, for the influence of ex-president Mauricio Macri and in the battle to recruit Radicals. They are locked in a Cold War which only promises to intensify in the next few months.

Rodríguez Larreta is preparing his official presidential launch for the end of this month while his former deputy, Diego Santilli, will be launching his Buenos Aires Province gubernatorial bid a week beforehand. A good metaphor for how the “H23” campaign is unfolding with the Colorado and the City Mayor among the leading figures of Juntos por el Cambio, both boosting each other.

According to the public opinion polls cherished by Uspallata City Hall and managed by Communications Secretary Federico Di Benedetto, the scenario nowadays shows Rodríguez Larreta ahead of Bullrich in strategic Greater Buenos Aires and in the City. The former Security minister fares better inland.

Working with the lowest of profiles, Di Benedetto does not publish his data, which consist of averaging out all reliable opinion polls and a major survey of over 10,000 face-to-face respondents nationwide. Opinion poll contributors include Federico Aurelio, Isonomía and Poliarquía.

While in mayoral circles they accept Bullrich’s good image, above all among the so-called “hardline” anti-Kirchnerite voters, they believe there is a silent majority that wants nothing to do with extremists and has a positive view of Rodríguez Larreta. This also emerges from focus groups conducted by the Spaniard Roberto Zapata. In other words, today they are more worried about the PASO primaries than the general elections.

In this context, Rodríguez Larreta is seeking to give his campaign an “epic” tone as from March with a discourse that will appeal for a “calmer and more predictable country” – a good way of differentiating himself elliptically from his rival.

There are parallel advances in negotiations with the Unión Cívica Radical, whose party chairman Gerardo Morales, the Jujuy governor who is also a presidential hopeful, stands the closest. But there is good dialogue with Corrientes Province Governor Gustavo Valdés and, of course, Senator Martín Lousteau. It has been measured – the Radical voter is very close to Rodríguez Larreta and far removed from Macri and Bullrich, leading to a preference for a Radical running-mate. “We must broaden out,” the City Mayor never tires of saying.

On her side, Bullrich is already in “presidential” mode, trying to recruit every leader around by promising some “a place” or specific post while haranguing others to join “the force of change,” the trademark installed by political consultant Derek Hampton and her campaign chief, Buenos Aires City legislator Juan Pablo Arenaza.

The PRO chair spent several hours talking last week about how the staggered elections in the provinces are coming along with national deputy and former Interior Ministry official Sebastián García de Luca, who took her to Entre Ríos to meet gubernatorial hopeful and former interior minister Rogelio Frigerio, as her co-pilot.

It is quite clear to Bullrich that she must approach the Radicals and take her running-mate from that  party. Although Senator Alfredo Cornejo (who is returning to Mendoza to run in elections there) has already said that he cannot join her, the former security minister will visit him for the Vendimia wine festival. Meanwhile she has set her eyes on the “hawkish” UCR deputy Rodrigo de Loredo, who is a gubernatorial hopeful in Córdoba.

Meanwhile other voices whisper to Bullrich that she should go for a non-political figure, an idea pitched by her consultant Hampton, who gives as an example what he considers to be Rodríguez Larreta’s progressive fall in the opinion polls. The Move Group expert affirms that all the changes in candidacies since 2021 and having taken the lead already are factors that work against Rodríguez Larreta.

“He transformed himself from an administrator into a politician,” he concludes, affirming that today’s society is demanding strong leadership from one side of the grieta chasm.

The PRO chair is sure that she remains ahead in all the opinion polls, as political consultants Shila Vilker, Jorge Giaccobe and Sergio Berensztein have been measuring.

As for Macri, it is clear that the ex-president has made gestures of closer proximity to Bullrich in terms of discourse and concrete issues by incorporating Hernán Lombardi into her campaign, as well as businessmen ranging from his brother Gianfranco to labs and the farming sector.

Nevertheless, Macri’s recent second southern encounter with Rodríguez Larreta was more productive than the first late last year with the City mayor niow ready to open up his future Cabinet to the ex-president. One request is already circulating: that Germán Garavano return to the Justice Ministry. Bullrich, the PRO chair, never liked him.

In any event both have their expectations of Macri. The City mayor wants him to stay aloof while Bullrich believes that the gestures he has already made are enough.

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Ezequiel Spillman

Ezequiel Spillman

Editor de Política de Diario Perfil. Mail: [email protected]

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