Adjustments for Mexico candidate Vazquez Mota after shaky start
REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- After an emptying stadium, angry protests, and a near fainting spell, Mexican presidential candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota on Monday announced a "change of course" in her campaign to be elected Mexico's first female president.
The race for the presidency is still commanded comfortably by front-runner Enrique Peña Nieto, the fresh-faced candidate of the old-guard party known as the PRI. As the days tick away toward the July 1 vote, Vazquez Mota and the other trailing candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, are searching for a boost.
"We're going to show that we are different," Vazquez Mota said at her headquarters, echoing the ruling party's central campaign theme, "Diferente."
The candidate has struggled practically since the day the race started.
Her party's major event to name her as its candidate started hours late; and images later showed her speaking as the stadium was emptying of weary supporters.
She's been confronted by testy citizens or protesters at public events. She seemed to nearly faint during a security forum. During one speech, Vazquez Mota said, "We are going to strengthen money laundering," apparently misspeaking or misreading prepared remarks.
But how "different" were the adjustments made on Monday? Not terribly.
Several of the names announced as new campaign advisors or coordinators are identified as insiders or confidants of current President Felipe Calderon.
Among the group joining Vazquez Mota is Rafael Gimenez, who was Calderon's internal pollster until he resigned Saturday from his post in the president's office. Also joining the campaign is the president's sister, Luisa Maria Calderon, and the president's brother-in-law, Juan Ignacio Zavala.
One local newspaper announced the shifts with the headline, "Calderonistas to the rescue."
Vazquez Mota told reporters that she is independent and autonomous in her leadership of efforts of the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, to capture a third consecutive presidency. But she also acknowledged that the party's long three-way internal primary hurt her campaign in its crucial launch.
"We've had less time to prepare than others," she said.
Vazquez Mota is trailing a wide second in polls behind Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. She said that her campaign's new focus will be undecided voters, who currently account for about a third of the electorate.
Vazquez Mota has focused her attacks on Peña Nieto, but she's also taken a few jabs at Lopez Obrador, the leftist coalition leader making his second bid for the presidency.
"We're going to show that we respect the institutions, not only when we win," she said, in a reference to Lopez Obrador's refusal to accept the 2006 presidential result, in which he lost to Calderon by less than a percentage point.
Lopez Obrador's campaign in recent days has released a video showing actors and famous writers endorsing his bid, as well as an interactive image showing his potential future Cabinet in the style of the familiar cover for the Beatles rock album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
-- Daniel Hernandez
Photo: Presidential candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota of the National Action Party poses for a picture before a news conference in Mexico City this month. Credit: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images