Lines of attack

With the election a month away, candidates sharpen their campaign strategies

Argentina’s general elections are exactly one month away. Taking a moment to reflect, it feels like just yesterday when Juntos por el Cambio (JxC) were the favorites, Economy Minister Sergio Massa a (politically) condemned man, and libertarian Javier Milei as much a meme candidate to some as a potential president to others.

But here we are, 30 days out from election day. The jarring effect of Milei’s shock primary victory has largely worn off, and the three main candidates are settling more soundly into their final-month campaign strategies. 

Heading into October, Massa is still on the ropes but very much in the race. The intensifying drumbeat of troubling economic news has cost the governing Union por la Patria (UxP) in local elections. 

That trend continued this past weekend. The Peronist coalition and their allies lost a fifth provincial governorship, the northern Chaco province –– which for 16 years had been a Peronist stronghold –– to Juntos por el Cambio. Beyond national economic travails, incumbent Peronist Governor Jorge Capitanich’s campaign was tainted by his ties to suspects in the shocking murder of Cecilia Strzyzowski.  

Despite provincial losses and the current state of the economy, Economy Minister (and moonlighting UxP presidential candidate) Sergio Massa has been holding steady in polls, even rising slightly in some. 

Polling this election cycle has, put diplomatically, left ample room for surprise. And there is plenty of time before October 22. The economy could still nosedive sufficiently to nix Massa’s bid for the Casa Rosada. But Massa himself seems to have consolidated support in the wake of the primaries. 

The economy minister has by and large captured the support of the 5.8% of voters who backed social leader Juan Grabois in UxP’s primary, Facundo Nejamkis, a director at pollster Opina Argentina, told the Herald. With the Peronist movement at his back, Massa can more confidently work to chip away at JxC’s moderate flank and more ardently attack Javier Milei’s camp. More on that latter bit below.  

Comparatively, “Bullrich has had a harder time retaining Horacio Rodriguez Larreta’s voters”, said Nejamkis. Her bruising primary face off with Buenos Aires City mayor left JxC voters split. Many Larreta supporters remain unconvinced by Bullrich. They consider her too conservative, too combative, or too indefinite in her policy platform. 

Battling Milei for control of the ideological right, Bullrich has struggled to differentiate herself, according to Nejamkis. 

The former security minister’s response? Double down on gaining support from high-profile policy influencers and hope it translates to votes. Neither Massa nor Milei have been able to successfully employ the tactic for themselves. It is well-suited to addressing one of Bullrich’s chief weaknesses –– confidence in her policy acumen. 

To that end, Bullrich this week attended a who’s who luncheon of prominent business leaders. During the event, Eduardo Eurnekian –– the airport magnate billionaire and former boss of Javier Milei –– made a point to toast Bullrich and publicly praise her campaign

Bullrich is fighting a two-front battle, and she is hoping the support of Argentina’s more traditional economic elite will help her. 

Aiding her strategy, incidentally, is Javier Milei, who is all-in on dollarization. As the libertarian’s star rises, so grows the opposition to his flagship policy.

Many in Argentina’s business and policymaking communities consider dollarization to be a misguided proposal. In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Eurnekian, an ostensible Milei ally, said what many in Argentina’s círculo rojo (“red circle”) of elite policy influencers are thinking –– that dollarization is a “simplification” of Argentina’s troubles. “I don’t want dollarization,” he told the FT. And, according to Supreme Court Justice Horacio Rosatti, the scheme might even be unconstitutional

Regardless, Milei has the political momentum. As I’ve noted in weeks past, he is working to Bullrich-ify his campaign –– cultivate endorsements from more mainstream, higher-profile political actors. 

Other non-dollarization elements of Milei’s campaign, including his and his allies’ takes on human rights protections, civil liberties, and democracy could complicate those efforts. “He has to calm down because we are not in a position to put up with another dictator”, Eurnekian told journalists in reference to Milei.

As the campaign season’s apogee approaches, Massa’s camp will likely target even more intensely Milei’s controversial social and economic stances in the hopes of both deterring protest voters from backing the libertarian and fomenting a more unified opposition to him. 


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