She has promised to rule as the “mother for her people” while President Lula refers to her as the “mother of the poor”. Following the results of recent public opinion polls, connecting with Brazil’s mothers is proving vital to Ms. Rousseff’s campaign for the presidency.
Last week’s Ibope and Datafolha polls showed PT presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff increasing her lead over rival Jose Serra (PSDB) by 11-17 points (43-47% of the electorate) and improving her popularity among female voters. The results come on the heals of July’s polls which marked the beginning of Ms. Rousseff’s decisive advance over Mr. Serra and her single largest improvement among women voters.
Ms. Rousseff’s sudden popularity with women contrasts with her longstanding lag behind Mr. Serra in attracting the female vote. The recent polls have encouraged the Rousseff campaign to continue reaching out to women and improve its standing among voters in the south, Mr. Serra’s base. Ms. Rousseff will be campaigning in the states of São Paolo and Minas Gerais accompanied by President Lula (of course) and Brazil’s first lady, Marisa Letícia.
“I’m going to govern this country with the attention of a mother, the care of a mother, and the strength of a mother”
The Rousseff campaign has always known of their candidate’s weak polling among women but seems to have finally found a way to connect with the female electorate.
According to polling analyst and sociologist Fátima Pacheco Jordão, the turning point for Ms. Rousseff occurred sometime in late July when Ms. Rousseff’s began to introduce the word “mãe”, or mother, into her campaign rhetoric and the electorate became more familiar with the candidate through extensive media coverage.
Ms. Rousseff’s Hiliary Clinton “moment”, or game-changing instance of compassion and intimacy, seems to have been crafted through a series of smaller “moments” emphasizing her role as a mother and caretaker.
The Serra campaign, keen to wrestle the lead back from Ms. Rousseff, has insisted on their core attack of portraying the PT candidate as “inexperienced”, especially when it comes to tackling crime. This tired campaign attack seems to have picked up some punch over the weekend when Jose Serra meticulously contrasted President Lula’s extensive political career with Ms. Rousseff’s limited time in public service.
If the Serra campaign is looking to Mrs. Clinton’s opponents for guidance on weakening a leading female presidential candidate, then it might be counting on the charge of inexperience to scare potential female voters.
Intentions aside, Mr. Serra’s tactics might be too little too late. If Ms. Pacheco Jordão is correct, female voters “are more selective, more critical” and are only now rallying behind their preferred candidate. The slow upsurge in Ms. Rousseff’s popularity among women certainly reflects this trend and, if continued, should secure Ms. Rousseff the presidency during the first round of voting on October 3rd.
Photo from Dilma Rousseff’s flickr photostream, user dilmarousseff
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