Muddy Hollows is about two-and-a-half weeks away from the first round of the presidential election in Muddy Hollows. Thus, it is about fucking time we had some serious polls. Based on that it looks like a three-way race for the top two spots leading into the second round. Scheduled for mid-November, it will most likely end in a victory for the candidate who is not Anže Logar.
That said, things are still very fluid at the top right now. Especially of note is the relatively large pool of undecided voters. 15 percent is enough to shake up the order of the top three. On the other hand, the remaining four candidates probably won’t break out of single digits, much less make a serious play at the second round.
For most of the summer, Nataša Pirc Musar had the playing field mostly to herself. Declaring early, she milked her name recognition for all it was worth. As a result, the polls put her just short of thirty percent almost constantly. Even when Marta Kos joined the race (briefly, as it turned out), NPM was riding the wave fantastic.
Going beyond name recognition
This all came tumbling down when all the would-be presidents became known. This allowed the pollsters to shift gears and measuring actual candidate viability. Sure enough, things suddenly weren’t looking as hot for Pirc Musar as before.
As of a week ago Nataša Pirc Musar is polling at around twenty percent. This puts her neck-and-neck with SDS’s Anže Logar, while Milan Brglez is hot in their heels, closing the gap.
Therefore, the question is whether it will be Nataša Pirc Musar or Milan Brglez advancing to the second round. Either will then proceed to open a can of whoop-ass on Anže Logar. Unless lower-tier players fuck things up “independent” SDS candidate. In this case both Brglez and Pirc Musar could make it to Round Two. It is not a highly likely scenario, but it is not totally improbable, either.
With two weeks until crunch time, the TV debates will not be coming in thick and fast. Well, maybe not thick, but they will definitely be fast. They will also be the primary source of information for the fifteen percent of the undecideds.
That, of course, is not to say that the undecided voters will go for either Brglez of NPM en bloc, as the Brits would say. In fact, if we take a look at Google Trends (a remarkably useful feature, even if it has its limits), a funny thing emerges.
It is Sabina Senčar, of the anti-vaxx Resni.ca party who sucked up most of the oxygen on the internets over the last couple of days. We shouldn’t infer too much from this, especially not that she is in any way a contender for the top three spots. But it does indicate a sort of activation on her base which seems to be almost entirely social media based.
Speaking of Facebook candidates, Gregor Bezenšek aka SoulGreg Artist also ran for president, but dropped out within days, citing unspecified threats against him and his family.
SoulGreg, too, was a web-candidate, who has a relatively substantial social media footprint. But unlike Senčar and her antivaxx bullshit, he was very much in favour of vaccinations and sensible masking policies. He also unequivocally supports Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion and occupation.
Apparently, this rubbed a lot of people on Facebook the wrong way. He didn’t point any fingers but it was reported that it was the antivaxx Facebook lunatics and putinists that got to him.
On one hand, this is fucked up. On the other, it shows that Mrs. Antivaxx Candidate has a devoted online following. This, in turn, could end up screwing up the best laid plans of better-placed candidates. Provided, of course, that Senčar manages to convert the Charge of the Facebook Brigade into, you know, actual votes.
Thou shall not tweet stupid shit
Elections are not won on social media. Unless, of course, you are Donald Trump or the Brexit campaign, funneling a shitload of suspicious money into dark advertising. In Muddy Hollows, elections can be lost on social media. Especially if your candidate has the propensity to tweet stupid shit (see Janša, Janez).
But a candidate can also be drowned in the noise of other candidates. This seems to be happening to Pirc Musar, whose online presence – apart from her Twitter account – seems to rely mostly on media appearances. Statistics on Twitter mentions reflect that.
It is obvious that the Social Democrats and Nova Slovenija are kicking it up a notch, trying to create buzz around their candidates (Brglez, and Cigler Kralj, respectively). Brglez actually has a decent chance of making a break for it, whereas it is probably too late for Cigler Kralj.
Then again, a couple of percentage points more for the NSi candidate could fuck things up royally for Anže Logar.
A week is a long time in politics
The SDS candidate is running a lukewarm campaign. This probably reflects the fact that he can count on about twenty percent of the vote even if he sent his cardboard cutout to do the debates. On the other hand, he could campaign until sweat was dripping down between his ass-cheeks and win twenty-three percent of the vote.
But he acts as if he has already won a spot in the second round. Which, as things stand, is probable but not yet a done deal.
As Harold Wilson once said (and pengovsky is so fond of repeating), a week is a long time in politics. Which is why the upcoming debates will be crucial.
If the first two debating rounds are anything to go by, the candidates have their work cut our for them.
Anže Logar discovers Tony Blair
Of the top three, Logar seems to be the most sure of himself. He is a skilled debater and an unpleasant opponent. However, he is making an effort at softening his image and appealing to moderate voters which can – and often does – come across as insincere. Also, since he hasn’t the practice, he is liable to say stupid shit. Like the other day when he said he looks to Tony Blair for inspiration. Which was like… dude, seriously?
Sure, Logar’s party boss Janša once stole a part of Tricky Tony’s speech. But that’s not the benchmark here. I mean, looking up to the guy who went to bat for George Bush, jr. in the second Iraq war, was proven wrong in an independent inquiry, still didn’t give a flying fuck and even said he was on a mission from God? That must be some novel use of the word “moderate” pengovsky was previously unaware of.
Nataša Pirc Musar, however, has a different problem. She was hoping to lock up the left-wing vote early on by winning endorsements of former presidents Milan Kučan and Danilo Türk. In the good old days that would have been more than enough. But these are not the good old days anymore. Being a successful lawyer awash with cash, she is also finding it hard to project an authentic “woman of the working class” image. Even though she is (stereotypes alert!) an avid biker and can play a mean bowling game.
Pirc Musar can’t move left
More importantly, however, Pirc Musar seems unable to tackle to the left, even though she is more likely to find votes there than reaching across the centre. But her initial repudiation of Levica as a possible source of support is now coming back to bite her in the ass. Levica fielded Miha Kordiš and comrade Couch Guevara is making a decent play at the disaffected left-wing vote.
He won’t get far, but when the push comes to a shove, a couple of percent for lower-tier candidates will very likely be the difference between the second round of voting and a second round at the bar as nobody will care about a third-placed candidate.
Basically, the problem Pirc Musar has is that she is being painted as a capitalist-friendly candidate. And, to be honest, she is doing very little to dispel that notion.
This, of course, is something that is driving Milan Brglez’s campaing right now. It is not that he is a supremo candidate. He is not, even though he can hold his own. His main strength is the fact that he can count on both the swagger of Gibanje Svoboda and the tried-and-tested network of supporters and members Social Democrats activate in election season.
Brglez walking a thin line
All Brglez has to do in order to stand a decent chance of making it to the second round, is not to fuck up too much. Which is harder than it sounds.
His main problem is that on matters of the EU and international law (specifically, war in Ukraine), he sees things differently than a sizeable chunk of his electorate. To oversimplify things, there is a enough of an EU-suspicious, anti-US sentiment within the SD and GS base that Brglez needs to think hard about how he approached these issues. Even though he was a professor of international relations and is a sitting MEP and knows full well how things really stand.
So, what Brglez hopes is that he doesn’t rile his own base up too much with pro-EU positions and his condemnations of Russian aggression against Ukraine. He must also hope that if he does rile up his base too much, party discipline will prevail and that his voters will vote for him out of party loyalty if nothing else. His main challenge therefore is, to know when to shut up, but still say just about enough,
Which basically leaves us with Janez Cigler Kralj for the NSi, Kočevje mayor Vladimir Prebilič and Sabina “Mrs. Antivaxx” Senčar.
Of the three, it is Senčar who has the largest and yet the least reliable pool of voters. I mean, playing the Facebook warrior and harassing another single-digit candidate online is one thing. But dragging your ass down to the polling booth and actually voting? Well, that is something completely different.
That is not to say that it can’t happen, but the stars would really need to align for Senčar to leave any sort of a mark on this campaign. That said, the Resni.ca antivaxx party is running Facebook ads with clips of her pushing conspiracy theories. So, don’t discount her yet.
Cigler Kralj, however, should have done much better than his current numbers show. If he crashed and burns, he will have not only fatally wounded the moderate wing of the NSi, but also the party as a whole. Which is probably why we are seeing an uptick in online activity over the past couple of days. That is one campaign that needs a course correction like Donald Trump needs a hairspray.
As for Vladimir Prebilič, well, let’s just say that he bit off way more than he can chew. His TV persona needs a bit more work. His positions need a fuckton of more work. And he really would have benefited from some actual experience in national politics before making the play for the Head Honcho.
However, between the three of them and with Kordiš added, the single-digit candidates lock up about twenty percent of the vote. Depending on how those particularly cookies crumble, the four also-rans could end up affecting the race profoundly.