The midterm results were nothing short of a minor earthquake here in Washington, with a new party in power and new leadership at the Pentagon. To decipher just what it all means for the war in Iraq, the race in 2008, and our allies - and enemies - abroad, FP turned to David Gergen, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School and advisor to four presidents, to get an insider's take. Here's a excerpt:
FP: After 9/11, many people said the “Vietnam Syndrome” was dead—that Americans were now willing to accept large numbers of casualties in prolonged interventions overseas. Does this election prove that wrong?
DG: What we are seeing in Iraq is not a replay of the Vietnam Syndrome. Rather, it’s a sense that we are engaged in a conflict without an obvious end in sight and [that] things are getting worse. The Vietnam Syndrome argued that we should not commit force again unless our vital interests are clearly at stake. But in Iraq, we did commit our troops to conflict without a clear national interest at stake. It was a war of discretion and yet, the American people supported it. So, I don’t think the Vietnam Syndrome is what our problem is here. Rather, it is that the war has been so incompetently managed that the people have lost faith in the capacity of those running it.
If you're anything like us, you've been glued to your computer and television for poll results, press conferences, and high-level resignations for several days now. What a convenient time to release bad news or sweep unfortunate events under the rug. Here's some of what you missed when you were watching Anderson Cooper and Chris Matthews:
-Russia decided to weaken proposed sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program.
-Israeli bombs kill 20 in the Gaza town of Beit Hanun. Israel defends the action, calling it "preventative." Hamas calls off the cease-fire.
-The European Union puts Turkey on notice for human rights issues and its role in Cyprus or risk ending accession talks.
-The UN adopted a resolution condemning the U.S. embargo of Cuba.
Ok, there's no evidence whatsoever that any of this is tied to midterm elections in America. In fact, it's probably not. But with campaign season finally over on the Hill and issues from Iranian nukes to Iraqi security on the agenda, it's time for congress to get back to work.
In a ForeignPolicy.com exclusive today, Marcia Pally, a professor at NYU, asks whether we can expect to see a foreign policy shift emerge from Washington now that the Democrats are back in control of the House, possibly the Senate, and gearing up for a serious bid for the White House. She finds that the Democrats have far more in common with President Bush than they care to admit.
[W]hen it comes to American foreign policy, the shift will be far less dramatic. The reason isn't simply that foreign-policy decisions typically lie in the domain of the executive. It is because President George W. Bush's approach to America's role in the world is not as remarkable as it is often claimed to be. ...Indeed, the foreign policies of both parties have never been substantially different. As they look ahead to the race for the Oval Office in 2008, Democrats are not likely to stray far from Bush's foreign policy, as it is a tradition partly of their own making.
As the results begin to be tallied in the states with the closest Senate races - think Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee, and New Jersey - make sure you are up to speed on where the candidates stand on the most pressing foreign policy issues, from nukes in North Korea to immigration, free trade, and the mess in Iraq. FP has assembled a nice little primer for you.
And whether the Democrats take the House, the Senate, or both, I really can't say. But FP recently asked more than a dozen Washington insiders - pundits and politicians alike - to weigh in on what shifts we can expect in American foreign policy if the Dems take Capitol Hill. At least one commentator thinks it'll mean we've seen the last of Don Rumsfeld as defense secretary. Check it out.
Want to know who will come out on top today? No, it's not the Democrats. Must be the Republicans, you say? Nope. It's the lawyers. That's right, the lawyers. Voting is only a few hours old and the court orders are already flying.
My prediction for this election day is that, with one-third of the country voting on new electronic machines, we will see a record amount of legal action contesting the results.
I hope I'm wrong -- very wrong. I hope that by midnight tonight, we know more or less who has won and lost. But after going to the polls in my neighborhood this morning, I'm not betting on it. When I arrived at my polling place in northern Virginia this morning around 7:45 a.m., I was greeted by -- you guessed it -- trouble with the electronic voting machines. The election officials were apologizing profusely because only four of five electronic voting machines were working. This was causing lines and delays. No one knew how to fix the fifth machine. I waited nearly an hour to vote, in one of the most hotly contested states in the country. It was sure to get worse as the day wore on, an election official quietly confided to me.
I don't mind waiting an hour to cast my vote. That's a small price to pay for democracy. But with more serious problems already being reported in Ohio, Indiana, and Florida, I'm guessing the lawyers will have a field day with this election. Let's hope I'm wrong. We'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, check out this excellent primer on why this election could be the most contested in history.
If the Democrats take control of Congress in November, do you think the threat of terrorism against the United States would increase, decrease, or stay about the same?
Increase Decrease Same DK/NA 22 18 57 2
If the Republicans keep control of Congress in November, do you think the threat of terrorism against the United States would increase, decrease, or stay about the same?
Increase Decrease Same DK/NA 27 14 57 2
If the Rove and Mehlman machine can make the Republicans survive this election, it really does deserve its status as Washington's favorite caveat.
There are just a few days left in one of the tightest U.S. Congressional elections in recent memory. With foreign-policy issues at the forefront of voters' minds, this week's List takes a look at where the people asking for votes actually stand on issues of vital importance to American foreign policy. From Iraq to immigration to trade, this is how the candidates stack up.
Plus, don't miss the Web Exclusive on ForeignPolicy.com where FP's editors canvass some of the leading political journalists, policy experts, and Washington insiders for a look at how American foreign policy would change if the Democrats were to take Congress. With so much at stake on November 7, it's worth a read.
President Bush says that if Democrats take over one or both houses of Congress on Nov. 7, "the terrorists win and America loses." In other words, if the Democrats win, they will pull out of Iraq and Al Qaeda will declare victory. But would Al Qaeda really consider it a victory if the U.S. withdrew its forces from Iraq? Or is the Al Qaeda cause better served by keeping U.S. forces tied down in a deadly guerilla war in the heart of the Middle East?
If the Democrats win, they will have to live up to their campaign promises and increase the pressure to withdraw. Even if the Republicans win, the pressure from the American street towards withdrawal is strong on them as well.
This poses a problem for al-Qaeda, since keeping America in Iraq has been so central to its strategy. If al-Qaeda believes that this stage has accomplished its goals, then the author thinks that it will permit the withdrawal and then reap its gains. But the author says that in his personal opinion, the time for the next stage has not yet arrived, and it would be better to keep the stage of America's being stuck in Iraq extended as long as possible. Even if America has suffered many losses, he argues, it remains very powerful and would only take a couple of years to recover from Iraq and return to the field of play. The author fears that al-Qaeda's leaders will fall prey to the temptation to move on to the next stage too early, and not intervene to keep the Republicans in power and the Americans in Iraq.
Therefore, while the author does not know what al-Qaeda wil do, he thinks that al-Qaeda should seek to delay the American withdrawal as long as possible by working to ensure that Bush and the Republican Party win the coming elections."
News reports this morning that the Pakistani military had leveled a madrassa without the help of U.S. forces seemed suspect. For starters, why go after such a politically sensitive target as a madrassa if no "high profile targets" were inside, as Pakistani officials insisted there were not.
Now it turns out there may have been good reason to be suspicious. Over at The Blotter, Alexis Debat is reporting that the madrassa raid was not only carried out by a U.S. Predator drone, but that Ayman al-Zawahiri was the target.
Maybe taking out Al Qaeda's Number Two was supposed to be the October surprise? Debat reports that Pakistani intelligence sources say they have Zawahiri "boxed" in a 40-square-mile area in Afghanistan, and he should be dead or captured in the next "few months."
What is Rob Portman talking about? In an interview today with the Financial Times, the White House budget director warns that if the Dems win Congress on November 7, the U.S. will enter a new era of irresponsible government spending. That's right. Ignore the fact that federal spending has skyrocketed under Bush, with the sharpest growth per household in decades. Portman goes on to specifically accuse the Democrats of pushing for higher spending on non-defense discretionary expenditures. Huh. Perhaps he should have a look at this chart, where - again - non-defense discretionary spending has grown sharply in the past few years - under the Republicans. I know it's just electioneering as usual, but how misleading is to try to spur supporters to the polls by accusing your opponents of the deeds of which you are most guilty?
It's now two weeks and counting until the U.S. midterm elections. And depending on whom you choose to believe, it's either the biggest election in recent memory or no big deal. What it might just be is a huge snafu. A report out today from the Election Reform Information Project predicts that polls across the country will be marred by technical problems from unproven new voting machines, confusion over stricter ID requirements and new poll locations, and troubles from inconsistent registration procedures. So whether Dems take the House, Senate, or both, there may be more than a few questionable results.
But just what will change in the realm of U.S. foreign policy if the Dems win? To find out, FP recently asked more than a dozen Washington insiders, ex-politicians, and pundits to speculate on U.S. foreign policy under a Dem-led Congress. Their answers will surprise you - they range from Rumsfeld's swift exit to more bipartisan cooperation to no change at all. Still, while a Democratic sweep may be racking up more and more believers, there are still 14 days to go. And with some candidates getting their names chopped off by faulty voter machines - a problem that can't be fixed before November 7 - there's reason to believe that this election is going to deliver more than its fair share of surprises.
And bonus: Don't miss the Post's Midterm Madness interactive game.
Much has been made in recent months of how a fiery brand of anti-American populism is winning elections in Latin America. That tactic might work for Hugo Chávez, but it's not the hand being played by Daniel Ortega, the former and (most likely) future president of Nicaragua. According to the LA Times's Hector Tobar, Ortega "almost never mentions the U.S. or the Bush administration on the campaign trail."
The questions is why? Ortega is one candidate you'd expect to be doing otherwise. The U.S. had made no secret of the fact that it doesn't want Ortega to win. Here's one possibility: He doesn't have to. At least not yet. A recent Zogby poll shows the left-wing, former Sandanista leader ahead by 17 percent. I suspect that's mainly thanks to the failure of Nicaragua's last three leaders -- Chamorro, Aleman, and Bolanos -- to effect any meaningful economic change. I was in Nicaragua a couple years back, and the poverty and unemployment are staggering. Who needs anti-Americanism when you've got 17 percent unemployment?
Was Clinton right, is it the economy, stupid? Got a different opinion? E-mail us.
The Los Angeles Times has some fun at the failed Mexican presidential candidate's expense. Voters in his home province of Tabasco voted against his movement's candidate in the governor's race.
Voters in the southeast state, a stronghold of Lopez Obrador's leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, have delivered the following message to the former presidential candidate: Get over yourself. By a 10-point margin, they elected Andres Granier, the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. This after Lopez Obrador spent three weeks campaigning alongside his party's candidate, Cesar Raul Ojeda. Before Lopez Obrador's meltdown last summer, Ojeda had been leading in the polls.
Unsurprisingly, Lopez Obrador has signaled that he will challenge the results.
The U.S. trade deficit rose from $68 billion in July to $69.9 billion in August (a rise of 2.7 percent), on course to set a new record. As of the end of August, the deficit totalled $784.2 billion, 9.4% higher than a year ago. High oil prices, which have pushed up petroleum import costs, and the politically-charged trade deficit with China, aided in setting this new monthly record. These figures have given fuel to the Democrats in the run-up to the mid-term elections, who argue that the Bush administration's mishandling of trade and economic issues is just another reason to give them the boot.
In late August, Lionel Jospin made a dramatic return to the French political scene, four years after he was knocked out in the first round of presidential voting. In an emotional speech, Jospin presented himself as the elder statesman of France, the true Socialist. Or, to put it more bluntly: the stop-Ségolène-Royal candidate. Today, he pulled out of the race.
Jospin's candidacy had failed to catch on with Socialist voters, among whom he trailed Royal 54 to 21 percent. Jospin had also failed to persuade the other male candidates, who have even lower ratings, to withdraw in his favor.
If this isn't enough to put a spring in Ségolène's step, there's also a new TV show in France featuring a charismatic female president. Now for all to be well in the Royal household, she just needs to persuade her common-law husband to confirm that he's standing aside for her.
Some days, I ask myself: Just where would the ominous music industry be without war on terror ads? I mean, if anyone has hit pay dirt these past five years, it's timpani drum players. Because nothing says insecurity and fear quite like a timpani drum solo.
But not all war on terror ads are meant to inspire raw fear. Some simply seek to stoke your anger or appeal to your sense of patriotism. To find out how the war on terror is being sold to the public, FP repeatedly watched a handful of recent war on terror ads. What did we learn? Terrorists really want to kill us, Republicans (and Dems) exploit the war on terror to their own ends, and Iraqi Kurds are really grateful people. Have a look for yourself.
(And, though it's likely you've seen it 1,000 times already, go ahead and watch Little Richard translating for President Bush one more time. It's still funny.)
Or at least that's what Beijing is hoping to do ahead of the September 28 election in the copper-rich African country. China, which has invested hundreds of millions in Zambia in recent years, has threatened to cut diplomatic ties and put investments on hold if citizens elect Michael Sata, the opposition leader gaining ground on the incumbent president. Sata has met with Taiwanese businessmen and once called Taiwan a sovereign state, angering the country's Chinese investors. And it isn't just Taiwan that has irritated the Chinese. Sata has had the courage to come out against worker exploitation in Chinese-owned mines:
They ill-treat our people (and) that is unacceptable. We are not going to condone exploiting investors because this country belongs to Zambians," Sata said in the radio interview.
Be sure to watch that election later this month.
The candidate of the left who fails to make the presidential election run-off in an essentially left-wing country like France should hang up his hat. Especially if he's already lost a presidential election previously and the two right-wing candidates who defeated him were an extreme nationalist and an unpopular incumbent tainted by corruption allegations, respectively. But former French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has concluded that his résumé makes him the ideal Socialist candidate for the 2007 election.
Accordingly, Jospin made his return to the political stage this weekend with an emotional speech at the Socialists' youth conference at La Rochelle. According to the FT, he'll lobby the other prospective male presidential candidates to drop out in the next few weeks to leave him as the "stop Ségolène Royal" candidate.
Royal's crime is to have spent her time making herself popular with the public—she's the only Socialist who could beat Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy—rather than courting party elders. She also dared to deviate from party orthodoxy on various subjects such as crime and employment. Jospin is hoping to attack her for being a pretty face, announcing in his speech that "[t]echnique does not replace politics." (A somewhat ironic charge, from a man who had just very publicly welled up while discussing his 2002 defeat and had to take a dramatic sip of water before continuing.) And other contenders have made comments that make Forbes's Michael Noer sound like an ambassador for gender equality.
As if all this wasn't drama enough, Royal’s common-law husband might end up running against her for the Socialist nomination.
The FT has scored a rare interview with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, catching the leftist presidential candidate in his tent in Mexico City's main square, where he has been camped out with thousands of his supporters in protest of what they have called fraudulent elections for the country's top office. Lopez Obrador freely admits that his civil resistance movement - in its third week - is losing popular support. But even after a partial recount of votes and an upcoming decision on the ultimate winner of the presidential contest, it's clear that Lopez Obrador has no intention of stepping aside. He told the FT:
If the tribunal ratifies the fraud the presidential election would be a flagrant violation in terms of all the constitutional principals. If the institutions, that is the presidency and the judicial system, do not act with respect for the Constitution and it is confirmed that the institutions are obsolete and that they have been kidnapped by a local interest group, well then the institutions do not work and it is necessary to reform them. That is what we are going to do.
If the fraud is ratified, I could not recognise the institutions, obviously I would not recognise Felipe Calderón because I would consider him to be a spurious, illegal and illegitimate president, and we would fight to make democracy count, renovate the institutions and undertake the changes this country needs.
There's also worry that the protests could get out of hand if the tribunal ratifies his rival's electoral victory:
FT: Walking along Reforma in the past few days it has struck me that there are some very radical people – certainly not the majority – but people who are even talking about an armed struggle. Doesn’t that worry you?
LÓPEZ OBRADOR: This is a peaceful movement.
FT: But doesn’t it worry you that there are such radical people supporting you?
LÓPEZ OBRADOR: No, because the movement's leadership has always said that this is a peaceful movement, not a violent one.
They say that this is the year that Democrats might retake control of the U.S. Congress. It's still hard to tell, but if this National Journal ranking of the House and Senate seats most likely to switch sides is any clue, the Dems are looking good for November.
French politics may be getting a little dirtier - or at least a bit more intrusive. James caught us all up recently on Bikinigate: paparazzi photos of French presidential candidate Ségolène Royal in her bikini on a beach near Cannes. Now comes the revelation that while Royal was vacationing, her family's flat in Paris was ransacked - and not a thing was stolen. With the race to succeed Chirac next year heating up, Royal thinks supporters of her main rival, Nicolas Sarkozy, are behind the break-in.
Mme Royal, 52, said: "This was not a burglary, but an intrusion and a full-scale search of my home in which nothing was stolen. Everything was turned upside down, the cupboards were emptied." Police said that the intruders had broken in through a window in the ground-floor flat and ripped the telephone wires out of the wall. ...[Royal] added that she had asked for the security of the telephone lines to be checked, implying that they might have been tapped.
At least one police officer has played down the possibility that it was an official job, remarking:
When a secret service carries out a job, it doesn't leave any trace behind, or it makes its intervention look like a burglary."
Back in November, Robert Litan warned Wal-Mart executives in an FP memo that the company needed a foreign policy:
You have become the quintessential multinational corporation, and with an incredible $285 billion in sales last year, your revenues exceed the gross domestic product of Austria, Greece, and Switzerland. All of which raises the question: What is WalMart's foreign policy?
A foreign policy has yet to materilize, but the company seems to be gearing up politically for something more local - the upcoming U.S. elections in November and the Democratic presidential primaries in 2008. Reports emerged today that the monster retailer has distributed a "voter guide" to its 18,000 employees in Iowa attacking Democratic congressmen and governors across the U.S. who have criticized the company. The "voter guide" targets four prominent potential Democratic presidential candidates: Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, and Tom Vilsack.
It's more than coincidence that Wal-Mart chose to release its voter guide in Iowa - the first election stop in the Democratic presidential caucuses - where nominees are often made or broken. It's also no surprise that many Democratic politicans have made a big show of their criticism of Wal-Mart, which has become a hot-button political issue in small towns and states across the Midwest, and yes, in Iowa.
With only two weeks having passed since being inaugurated and beginning his second chance at running the country, Peru's Alan Garcia shouldn't be surprised that the presidential honeymoon is still going strong. Nonetheless, his approval rating of 71.8 percent is pretty impressive, considering that his first time in the driver's seat (1985-1990) ended when he ignominiously fled Peru under charges of corruption, after guiding the country into near civil war with the Shining Path guerillas while the economy went into four-digit inflation. If Garcia can keep up even a middling approval rating, it'll be fair to call his return to office the most successful (and theatrical) political comeback Latin America has seen for a long time.
His return to grace is even more incredible if you recall that Peruvians weren't too happy with either of their candidates just a short time before the election in June--some likened their electoral options to a choice between cancer and AIDS. (It wasn't clear which one Garcia was supposed to be.)
You know things are heating up in French politics when even les grandes vaccances are not sacred. This is the last summer before the 2007 presidential election and the two front runners are both indulging in some seaside electioneering. First, Nicolas Sarkozy, the likely candidate of the right, published Témoignage, which both sets out his political credo and deals—unusually for a French politician—with his personal life, including the breakdown and revival of his marriage. The book shot to the top of the best-seller lists and became the must-have beach read of the summer.
Sarko bested his likely opponent Ségolène Royal, whose book is due out in September, by pushing forward the publication date to take advantage of the fact that "the only time the French talk politics with their family is during the holidays." Sarko has even headed onto the dunes to sign copies. All this was combined with a blitz of the beaches by his UMP party.
But now Ségo has stolen some of Sarko's thunder: She's been snapped by the paparazzi in her bikini. Seeing as Ségo is apparently the 6th sexiest woman in the world, this isn't likely to harm her numbers. The intriguing question, as The Times’s man in Paris, Charles Bremner, points out, is will she sue? Under France's privacy laws she's entitled to. But seeing as Sarko isn't shy of using the snappers to get his message across—recent shots of him and his wife kissing confirmed their reconciliation—Ségo might be happy to let this fly. The recent sacking of the editor of Paris Match for publishing photos of Sarko's wife with her lover, though, shows that these things can cut both ways.
Hugo Chavez has a new challenger in the upcoming presidential election, and no one's taking him seriously. But that shouldn't bother Benjamin Rausseo, a shoeshiner-turned-comedian who declared his candidacy on Friday. After all, people have been laughing at him all his life.
Running without any apparent qualifications but plenty of name recognition, Mr. Rausseo
has slim hopes of winning. But if nothing else, he'll add some humor to what is likely to be a humorless (and less-than-fair) race. And even if he fails miserably, he can always go back to the funny business.
We're both ugly, we both have kinky hair, we both come from the lower class--but the difference is I live here in Venezuela"--candidate Benjamin Rausseo, alluding to Chavez' frequent trips abroad
On Sunday, the Democratic Republic of the Congo will hold its first free elections in more than 40 years. International donors have chipped in nearly half a billion dollars to finance the vote - this in a country with only a few hundred miles of paved roads, crippling poverty, little access to health care, and the world's largest U.N. peacekeeping force. But I'm all in favor of freedom, and there's good news out of the country's war-torn east today: three of the main warring militias there have agreed to lay down their arms. Still, the election is a huge logistical challenge: thousands of candidates, rampant intimidation, and the very real possibility of fraud (5 million extra ballots have been printed).
That's just the election. There's the other small matter of rebuilding the country's infrastructure after a devastating civil war that ended in 2002, after killing 4 million people. That war sucked in not just neighboring countries, but tens of thousands of child soldiers, who are now slowly being demobilized. But how do you integrate kids who extorted, murdered, and raped, most because they were forced by elder soldiers, but some because they wanted to?
In a new ForeignPolicy.com exclusive, Paule Bouvier and Pierre Englebert examine the incredible challenges the DRC faces, not just in pulling off this weekend's election, but in making the democratic experiment stick by securing the country and pulling its devastated population out of poverty. Despite all the international investment and the domestic enthusiasm, it's unlikely this weekend's election will deliver a miracle.
With all that is going on in the Middle East, it is easy to forget about the rest of the world. But there is some important—and good—news from Africa right now: Cyril Ramaphosa looks set for a political comeback. The South African press is reporting that he'll run for the presidency of the ANC in 2007 and if he wins, he'll almost certainly become the country's president in 2009. (Ramaphosa poured some cold water on the suggestion today, but was far from Shermanesque in his denials.)
Ramaphosa is one of the great heroes of the anti-apartheid struggle. At the National Union of Mineworkers, he got the color bar lifted in the mines before apartheid was abolished. He was then the ANC's chief negotiator as apartheid was dismantled between 1990 and 1994. He was widely believed to be Nelson Mandela's choice for the presidency but was edged out by Thabo Mbeki. Ramaphosa's main rival for the next presidency will likely be populist Jacob Zuma, recently acquitted of rape, but still facing a corruption trial.
Mbeki's presidency is looking to be a disappointment. In some ways this was inevitable - succeeding a secular saint like Mandela (or Vaclav Havel) is a nigh-on-impossible task - but Ramaphosa is what South Africa needs now. Since departing the political scene, he's become a successful businessman. Crucially, he's not in denial about AIDS—unlike Mbeki and Zuma—and serves as the vice-chairman of the Global Business Coalition against HIV/AIDS. He's also taken a far tougher line than Mbeki on Robert Mugabe's disastrous regime in Zimbabwe. By contrast, Zuma would likely be a disaster for South Africa. His divisive populism and know-nothing approach to AIDS could set the country back years.
Given the scale of the undertaking, and given the push for democracy worldwide, it's remarkable how little attention Congo's upcoming vote is getting. The country is still in the midst of bloody and complex fighting that a 17,000-strong U.N. force—the world's largest—is struggling to quell. Meanwhile, international observers and election technicians have flooded into the country to supervise the July 30 election. The smart money is on Joseph Kabila, and opposition candidates are already calling foul. The election seems certain to be messy but if it can help usher in an era of even partial stability, it will have been worth it: It is estimated that between three and four million people died during Congo's civil war.
The four D's of the African apocalypse--Death, Disease, Disaster, and Despair--have some new friends: Hope and Progress. That's the word from renowned journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, whose book New News Out of Africa offers an optimistic view of Africa's future at the same time that it draws attention to the continent's seemingly crushing problems.
In a talk this morning at the Center for American Progress, Hunter-Gault made the case for "a second wind of change blowing across Africa." Citing a series of initiatives intended to provide "African solutions to African problems," Hunter-Gault spoke of the things that are going well, including the groundbreaking Africa Peer Review Mechanism, an ambitious, home-grown project that is helping African leaders hold each other accountable to agreed-on standards of governance, economic policy, and human rights.
In what has turned into a politically bloody presidential race, one familiar name keeps appearing on Mexican television, radio, and in print: Hugo Chávez.
There is no evidence to suggest that Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left-leaning candidate, has ever met or spoken with the Venezulan president. Even so, Felipe Calderón - now in a statistical dead-heat with López Obrador - has been extremely successful at linking the two politicians.
Though a López Obrador victory would signal a turn to the left for some of Mexico's domestic politics, there isn't much behind the Chávez comparisons. For more analysis of the race, check out FP's interview with Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue about some of the intracacies of Mexican politics.
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