The big-name pundits are now having fits with Mr. Binay’s recent rise in the polls. How could the presidential candidate they have labeled as “The Crook” bounce back so rapidly – after few months in the doldrums of political polling . They have written his political obit, how could they go wrong. As the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of integrity, the big-name pundits have a supreme belief in their holier-than-thou posturing.
The misery of the pundits is actually a double whammy. As the pundits’ favorite swings between 3rd and 4th in the polling, with a remote chance of gaining real ground, the candidate they detest is now back as the polling leader. They are probably tortured by this question. How can “The Crook” be favored over the torch bearer of the “Daang Matuwid” legacy? Can’t the people get it?
Those who understand politics and do not live in ivory towers have always maintained that Mr. Binay is a competitive candidate, with first class survival instincts and resiliency. Even with the media lashings he got, he retained his loyal base of more than 20 percent, who would not desert him no matter what. In a multiple field, that is a competitive base. Remember that Mr. Ramos was compared to the agri-business giant RFM in 1992. Mr. Ramos won 24 percent or so of the votes, which was the same percentage of RFM’s then share of the broiler market.
Mr. Binay, in case you have not noticed, has logged more miles and has visited more public markets than his competitors combined. His lust for the presidency made him understand that face-to-face encounters are far more powerful than Tweeter feeds.
Just months back, I wrote a piece with the headline “Will more screaming headlines finally sink Mr. Binay?” Given his survival instinct, I wrote then, I doubt if the headlines would deliver his political coup de grace.
This is also worth noting. The rise in the polls took place in an environment terribly hostile to the Binay family. The drip-drip of negative stories about their supposed corruption of the highest order never ceased. The negative feedback loop that was supposed to sink Mr. Binay indeed took place, but only in the universe of the Binay detractors.
So what transpired between the low 20 percent of Mr. Binay a few months back to the mid-30s where he is now? Here is a simple explanation. Mr. Binay has campaigned like an adult, below media’s radar as much as possible, and soldiered on, unmindful of the great adversity.
That was his campaign playbook when he upset Mr. Roxas in the last vice presidential elections. He is just doing a repeat of the campaign system that served him well last time around.
The additional boost to Mr. Binay came from the other presidential candidates, principally Mr. Roxas and erstwhile poll leader Mr. Duterte. In a word war that magnified their short tempers that bordered on infantilism, the two were about to self-destruct when they both realized the folly of their fast and furious verbal exchanges. The polling that lifted Mr. Binay pushed Mr. Duterte from his lofty place as the number one choice.
While Digong and Mar feuded publicly, a spectacle that showed their temper tantrums, Mr. Binay took advantage of the feud to show that he is the adult in the political room. Filipinos like their politicians to behave like adults and Mr. Binay’s demeanor has been a plus factor for him.
While Senator Poe was not part of the Mar-Digong sharp exchange of words, she is in a political hole of a different kind, responding to citizenship issues which might doom her presidential candidacy. En banc, the Commission on Elections has disqualified her and her case is now with the Supreme Court, where the resident wise man, Justice Antonio Carpio, is of the opinion that Ms. Poe is not a natural born citizen and therefore disqualified from running for the presidency.
The Filipino voter, the average one and not the loyal Poe supporter, reacts negatively to disqualification cases and this is the reason why Poe has stumbled in the polls despite her status as the leader and the Binay-beater a few months back.
The High Court ruling that TROed the disqualification cases filed against her provides an instant and a great relief. She now has to regain her lost footing and try to catch up with Mr. Binay in the polling.
Will she regain her Number One status and dislodge Mr. Binay as the most preferred presidential candidate anew? The next surveys, post the TRO, will answer that question.
Like Mr. Binay, Ms. Poe is a very competitive candidate. She has the backing of billionaires and the showbiz crowd, which is a power to reckon with in the Philippine political context.
Everything is still fluid in the presidential race and there is no certainty that Mr. Binay can hold on to his lead. Political science says it is now back to a Binay-Poe contest, where it was before Mr. Duterte showed a brief polling strength.
My take is that it remains a three-way race with Mr. Duterte temporarily sidelined by his intemperance. He remains competitive just like Mr. Binay and Ms. Poe.