Well, what can I say? If the only three candidates were HCR, PP and Maria Corina Machado and the vote tomorrow I would vote for her without batting an eye. Trailing in the polls, really hard pressed by an unusually aggressive Ciudadano in the first part of her visit, she put all of that on the side and was able to draw her vision of the country. You may agree with her, or not, but you cannot deny that the woman knows what she wants and that at this stage she does not care whether people think she is right. She knows she is and she knows her mission goes beyond the current electoral context. I have always been a sucker for Cassandra like politicians and let's say it: she was thatcherian tonight.
But one better, actually, because she has some genuine compassion to go with it. Her best moment may have been when the Ciudadano told her dismissively that all candidates promised such stuff and she looked straight at him and said " but they believe it when it comes from me".
Ciudadano: Eso se lo dicen todo el mundo, Maria Corina [dismissive hand gesture follows]
Machado: Nooo, eso es verdad; pero a mi me lo creen
That is what you call aplomb.
I do not know how true is that, or if she was trying to gamble everything to nudge a few points in the polls, but one thing is certain: she has star quality because the callers were devoted supporters whereas the callers from the first two guys were more inquisitive, seeking reassurance. None of the Machado callers sought reassurance.
But let's get back to the interview and away from my perceptions (I love wonkish strong women, even if I have little use for them). First, I suppose that the initial almost harsh stance from El Ciudadano was part of the show. After all, his self anointed mission is to make all candidates play on their strength, and MCM being a woman and trailing, he may have wanted to show the world that she is credible as a president of Venezuela. Her first hellish 10 minutes did prove that point and the rest of the interview went much more according to form, with El Ciudadano even joking at some point that people are upset when he is too harsh and upset when he is too soft. But the man has been around the block and I suspect that he really wants the best one to win in February, whomever. Which led to a telling moment.
EL Ciudadano was of course asking her about her lack of crowds, of mass meetings, etc, as the main three candidates are able to pull at their events. She said some crap about going to the people instead and she dismissed all the polls bravely pointing out that not only 40% of the people have not chosen their man yet, but had the Ciudadano made his choice already? He fumbled, taken by surprise, and admitted that he was waiting for February (as yours truly isdoing, by the way). Which was my best part of the interview for me because MCM showed that she clearly understood what a primary is all about: you chose the one you like the best, not necessarily the one you think will win the general election. This allowed her to be generous in saying that all candidates would be united behind the winner in February and that it was great that we had such great candidates to pick from.
Since this is long enough already, I will pass on the wonkish part except to stress that she knows her numbers, she made her homework and she has ideas, clear ideas. We can discuss their feasibility at will but since I am of the mind that the feasibility of anything is questionable, why bother. Let's suffice that a candidate shows intellect and the ability to come up with solutions because the solutions we discuss today may well be absolutely moot a year from now when a new administration takes charge and finds empty coffers and thousands of saboteurs in front.
At any rate, tonight Machado showed that intelligently she is doing a primary campaign. She is not wasting time on the pretense of a national campaign as those ahead in the polls are doing, and she is focusing on the only thing she can do: gather one by one the faithful, those that will be certain to vote for her once convinced. That is how it is won in Iowa and New Hampshire, and how it should be won in Venezuela except that she has little time left until February 12. We´ll see.
Maria Corina en Aló Venezuela por Globovision
PS: So right now my series choices stand as MCM in first, PP in second and HCR in third, with three to go, and none eliminated outright. Wish me luck in being able to follow the three interviews as I may miss the Monday night with Leopoldo but I should be able to get Friday and Tuesday..