Mexico’s Galvez Goes on Offensive in Debate Seeking Comeback

(Bloomberg) -- Mexico’s opposition presidential candidate Xochitl Galvez ramped up the attacks against frontrunner Claudia Sheinbaum in the second presidential debate, in one of her last opportunities to increase voter support.

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Galvez appeared more confident than in the first presidential debate, interrupting Sheinbaum with taunts such as shouting the word “lie” and showing signs that read “Claudia lies” as the ruling party candidate spoke, and even accusing her family members of being involved in alleged corruption schemes. Sheinbaum stopped smiling and asked her contender to present evidence on her allegations, or simply said: “No, no and no.”

For Galvez, a strong footing at the debate was key as she seeks to catch up to Sheinbaum, who holds a commanding lead just over a month before the presidential vote. Sheinbaum has 61% of voter intention, a 29 point lead over Galvez, according to the most recent version of the Bloomberg Poll Tracker, a weighted poll of polls based on criteria including historical accuracy and survey methodology.

“Xochitl Galvez did better, but I don’t think it’s enough to change the trend,” said political analyst Gisela Rubach, head of Consultores y Marketing Politico, in a TV show after the two-hour debate. “Claudia Sheinbaum didn’t break character.”

Read More: Xochitl Galvez Readies for a Must-Win Mexico Presidential Debate

Sheinbaum is running on behalf of the ruling Morena party, founded by popular President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is unable to run for reelection. She focused on a message of continuity, noting she would maintain and improve his welfare programs and his largest infrastructure projects, such as the Maya Train or Petroleos Mexicanos’ Dos Bocas refinery.

“The transformation model is a humanistic, honest model, protective of our heritage, with better salaries and pensions, without increasing taxes,” she said.

Galvez echoed that she would keep the current welfare programs as well as the infrastructure projects “that work.” She added that she would look to forgive taxes for those who make under 15,000 Mexican pesos ($881.25) per month. She also emphasized her plans to keep Pemex state-owned and blamed the government for its financial woes.

“We are going to make Pemex an efficient company,” Galvez said. “Pemex is going to be a company with a new business model that invests where it’s profitable, which is exploration.”

Read More: Mexico Presidential Frontrunner Sees Pemex Refinancing Debt

Third-party candidate Jorge Alvarez Maynez vied to attract attention, but struggled to succeed as the main candidates were focused on their two-way debate. Alvarez Maynez holds 7% of voter intention, according to the Bloomberg Poll Tracker.

“This second debate came with more surprises compared to the first one, and in our view it has greater potential to move electoral preferences,” Bradesco analysts led by Rodolfo Ramos wrote in a note. “However, we continue to see a challenging road ahead for opposition candidate Galvez given the more than 20 percentage point advantage Sheinbuam holds.”

(Adds analyst comment to story kicker)

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