Andres Lopez Obrador widens lead in Mexican presidential race

May 30, 2018 GMT

Leftist presidential candidate Andres Lopez Obrador has widened his already significant lead over the field with just a month to go before voting commences in Mexico’s July 1 election a contest experts say could have major consequences for the Trump administration’s NAFTA talks and U.S.-Mexico relations overall.

Mr. Lopez Obrador, who has positioned himself as an anti-Trump candidate despite also saying he’s eager to engage in serious negotiations with Washington on both immigration and trade, showed 52 percent percent support in a May 24-27 poll, following Mexico’s second televised election debate.

The survey conducted by Mexico’s Reforma newspaper and published Wednesday showed a 4 percent increase from previous polls for Mr. Lopez Obrador, the 64-year-old former mayor of Mexico City and longtime favorite of progressives and left-leaning activists on the Mexican political landscape.

Citing the Reforma poll, Reuters said Mr. Lopez Obrador is now running 26 percentage points ahead of second-place candidate Ricardo Anaya of a right-left coalition. Jose Antonio Meade, from the centrist and ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of current Mexican President Enrique Pea Nieto, is in third with 19 percent.

The populist Mr. Lopez Obrador lost presidential runs in 2006 and 2012. But his new National Regeneration Movement known as Morena has surged through the recent months of campaigning in Mexico.

Washington’s foreign policy establishment has long viewed Mr. Lopez Obrador as a Ralph Nader-esque outsider, too far to the left to garner the broad support needed to win the presidency. But there are signs his hard line anti-corruption and anti-establishment messages highlighting scandals plaguing Mr. Pea Nieto’s presidency over the past five years have made the July 1 vote Mr. Lopez Obrador’s to lose.

The candidate has made international headlines by sharply criticized President Trump’s push to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, arguing the problem of illegal drugs flowing north from Mexico is fueled by U.S. consumption and won’t solved by more security measures.

“This problem needs to be addressed from the demand sides in terms of consumption in the United States,” Mr. Lopez Obrador said in speech in Washington in September.

At the same time, he said he is eager for a serious dialogue on trade and security with Mr. Trump, but has no interest in the president’s “propaganda” on such matters.

Mr. Lopez Obrador has also criticized the Trump administration’s trade policies, saying the administration’s threat to impose dramatic tariffs on goods heading north from Mexico as a way to pay for a wall along the border and reduce the bilateral trade deficit were simply unrealistic given the pain such a move would bring to U.S. consumers.

“If you impose this tariff,” he said in his Washington speech in September, “it would cost U.S. citizens more to buy new cars, and if we were to punish the Mexican auto industry, consumers would have to pay a price for that in the United States.”

Mr. Lopez Obrador also vowed that, if elected, he would vigorously defend the rights of Mexican immigrants and migrant workers inside the United States, enlisting Mexico’s consulates throughout the U.S. in the fight.

“The 50 Mexican consulates in the United States in a short period of time will fully take on the defense of Mexicans and migrants,” he said, adding that a Lopez Obrador administration would turn the facilities into “true centers for the defense of migrants” by elevating an official at each consulate to the “rank of ambassador.”