El Salvador’s new Leftist president Mauricio Funes may have used images of President Barack Obama in his campaign ads, but one of Funes’ American pollsters tells Campaign Insider that had nothing to do with his recent victory.
El Salvador’s new Leftist president Mauricio Funes may have used images of President Barack Obama in his campaign ads, but one of Funes’ American pollsters tells Campaign Insider that had nothing to do with his recent victory. Funes fashioned himself his country’s Obama during El Salvador’s recent presidential campaign which Funes won by a narrow margin. To the anger of the U.S. State Department he used images of Obama in his campaign ads, and compared himself to the American president, saying they were both victims of baseless conservative claims that they were tied to extremists. The candidate’s website also had some echoes of Obama’s. And the party stole Obama’s campaign slogan—using “Yes, we can” at campaign rallies and in its ads. Mark Feierstein, a principal at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, worked in El Salvador as Funes’ pollster. He says the Obama comparisons were barely a blip on the radar screen in the country compared to the attention the American media has focused on it. “The key issue there was the FMLN and whether it had changed or moderated enough,” says Feierstein. Funes, he says, hadn’t been associated with the guerilla movement that gave birth to his political party (FMLN), but still had a big hurdle to overcome when it came to perception. The fear was that the election of Funes might hurt ties with the United States and bring the country closer to Venezuela. If Obama and the ’08 presidential election had any effect on El Salvador’s recent contest, Feierstein says it was that Obama’s victory partially allayed fears that a Funes win would alienate the U.S. El Salvador’s ruling party ARENA has been largely supported by Republicans. For President Obama though, the comparison to Funes is likely an unwanted one no matter who is making it. Funes’ victory means El Salvador’s new government will move solidly to the left, as Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela have in recent years. This headline, from the conservative Media Research Center, made the front page of the Drudge Report: “CNN Correspondent Now the Communist Candidate in El Salvador.”But while Funes may have borrowed Obama’s slogan and image, the candidate didn’t do much to emulate the Obama online operation. Mark Feierstein says throughout most of Latin America the use of the internet as a campaign tool is still limited. “Internet penetration is low, and a lot of the infrastructure just isn’t there,” he says. “In most countries the whole ground game is much more important. The ability to go door to door and collect the data they need is just more useful in Latin America.”Shane D’Aprile is senior editor at Politics magazine. firstname.lastname@example.org