The game started

Image: Marcio Costa


The political mistake is to consider Tatto defeated before the game starts

The first electoral polls in the capital of São Paulo led to some hasty conclusions, especially in the field of the left.

It is true that Guilherme Boulos starts at a surprising level. It is also true that the 9% obtained by the PSOL candidate in DataFolha is due to the fact that Boulos advanced on part of the electorate sympathetic to the PT.

Boulos obtained this good result due to a combination of factors: political consistency, social commitment, recall of the presidential election, and loyalty to Lula during the prison episode in Curitiba. All of this made Boulos a broader candidate, who dialogues beyond the PSOL's organized base. Merits for him and the party – which is gaining momentum.

Based on these assumptions, some conclude that Boulos is already – definitively – the “candidate of the left”, and that there is no other path for the PT than to support the PSOL in São Paulo.

To justify this hasty conclusion, the results of the 2016 election are presented, when Haddad obtained 16% of the votes in the first round. This would be the new “level of the left” in São Paulo. Therefore, if Boulos today has 9%, Orlando Silva (PCdoB) has 1% and Jilmar Tatto (PT) leaves with 2%, there would be very little margin for the PT – who could reach a maximum of 4% or 5% of the votes in the first round.

There is a double error in this account: arithmetical and political.

In São Paulo, there is a “popular field” that is identified with the three PT administrations in the city since 1988: Erundina, Marta and Haddad. Well, in 2016 Haddad actually obtained only 16% (this in the midst of the Coup against Dilma, and a PT extermination campaign).

It was the most difficult moment for the party. It must be remembered, however, that in that election Marta (MDB) and Erundina (for PSOL) were also candidates and obtained a combined 14% of the votes.

This means that the popular (or “PT-friendly”) camp in the city can reach 30% of the votes – even if this total is divided into several candidacies.

Let us remember that in 2018 the PT was still under attack and, even so, the PT candidate for governor of São Paulo (Luiz Marinho) obtained 16% of the votes in the capital. And this in the midst of a campaign that led many PT voters to vote for Marcio França (PSB) in the first round, to prevent Skaf from facing Doria.

But back to 2020…

DataFolha showed Russomano in first place with 29%, Covas in second with 20%, Boulos with 9%, France with 8%. But the survey also indicated (and here we leave arithmetic and enter politics) who is the strongest electoral supporter in São Paulo: Lula!

The former president has less rejection than Bolsonaro and Dória. Furthermore, 20% of voters in São Paulo state that they would vote “for sure” for a candidate nominated by Lula; and another 21% say they “could vote” for a candidate nominated by the PT.

The political mistake, therefore, is to consider Tatto defeated before the game starts. With Lula's entry into the field, the PT candidate tends to rise... Electoral polls indicate that part of those who today choose Russomano, especially in the peripheries, may migrate to Tatto.

In this way, we would reach November with the “PT-friendly field” in the largest Brazilian city divided between Boulos and Tatto (each in the range between 10% and 15% of the votes), and to a lesser extent also spreading between Orlando Silva and Marcio Franca.

There is a real possibility that this division favors a second round between Covas and Russomano. This is a fact.

But I don't think it's reasonable to assume that the only way to avoid this scenario is for the PT to immediately withdraw its candidacy. It may be that all this pressure today in favor of Boulos (“the best positioned on the left”) will later turn against him.

What will Boulos' supporters do if Tatto proves to be the most competitive in the polls when November rolls around?

It is likely that – a few days before the election – we will have a race for the “useful vote”, with voters in that field informally making the choice that the parties did not sew before the election. Electoral arithmetic and politics indicate that this race could take place both in favor of Boulos and in favor of Tatto.

But this is a complicated election because there is division in the right field as well.

The current leader in the polls fell apart in previous campaigns. This time, without debates on Globo, and with more organic support from Bolsonarism and Edir Macedo, the trend is that Russomano manages to remain more competitive. He could lose votes, on the outskirts of the periphery, for “Lula's candidate”. But I think it's unlikely he'll be out of the second round.

Covas' life is more difficult. He carries an iron ball on his feet, called Doria. The mellifluous PSDB governor is not forgiven for leaving the city, with only 1 year and a half in office in the City Hall, to run for office in 2018. Covas is the candidate with the most rejection – above 30%.

Part of the middle-class electorate could move towards Marcio França (an almost toucan, who needs to find out if there is room to stay in the middle of the road, between left and right). França, however, faces the difficulty of running in the same lane as Covas, but without the administrative machine that favored him in 2018.

If that all happens, the most likely thing is that Russomano will remain the leader, and Covas will have to fight to prevent France or Boulos or Tatto from taking his place in the second round.

The left will make a serious mistake if they only hit Covas to take him out of the second round, leaving Russomano free and loose. It is immediately necessary to remember that Russomano is the candidate of the Universal Church and that he can transform São Paulo into a new Rio de Janeiro, with the administration captured by the bishop's supporters.

Russomano, on the other hand, seems to hope that the opponent in the final turn will be Boulos. With that, he could run an “ideological” campaign, in which the fact of being Edir Macedo's candidate would be in the background.

Covas, França, and even Tatto, would theoretically have more chances to beat Russomano.

The game is open

*Rodrigo Vianna Master in Social History from USP. Journalist, currently presents the program good night 247.

Originally published on the portal Brazil 247 .


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