Consolidating Mexico’s Democracy: The 2006 Presidential Campaign in Comparative Perspective

Political-campaign junkies will relish this numbers-rich review of the last Mexican presidential election, in which the conservative candidate, Felipe Calderón, overcame the early lead of the populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to the great relief of Washington. Leading U.S. and Mexican political scientists, with National Science Foundation funding, ran a series of preelection polls whose results provide the fodder for each of the volume's 15 smartly argued essays. Unsurprisingly, the analysts concur that the winner ran a sharper campaign, successfully identifying himself with competence and prosperity while deploying negative advertising to tarnish the image of his opponent. With far-reaching implications, Alberto Diaz-Cayeros, Federico Estevez, and Beatriz Magaloni find that conditional cash transfers to very poor households (requiring that their children attend school) helped the incumbent party; paradoxically, the "right-wing" Calderón won as a result of antipoverty programs. The collection's authors dispute the degree to which ideological cleavages continue to divide Mexican voters, even as there is general agreement that the Mexican left faces difficult times ahead. Overall, these top experts paint a reasonably optimistic picture of a gradually maturing Mexican democracy.

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