President Lula da Silva’s handpicked candidate and former chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, is now headed toward an Oct 31st runoff against Jose Serra. Ms Rousseff was widely predicted to win easily on Sunday night.
The question: Why did this happen?
The answer: Communication skills.
Ms. Rousseff is widely viewed as lacking the charisma and communication skills of her mentor. Even while “winning” the only major debate a week ago, Ms.Rousseff, along with Mr. Serra and the other major candidates, failed to impress in the final debate.
President Lula has an 81% approval rating and could not have supported Ms.Rousseff more, proving once again that popularity and charisma are not necessarily transferable.
One thing is for sure, the race is now truly a race and the candidate who connects in the next four weeks wins. In a runoff the debates matter; Politics often offers second chances, and both candidates now have one.
Both candidates would benefit from speech coaching/media training, as communication skills over the next 26 days may determine the next President.
Strategies that each candidate might want to think about:
Ms. Roussseff needs to establish herself as an independent personality – I would advise actually using self-deprecating comments around Lula’s popularity and the press hits calling her a “techno-crat.”
Mr. Serra needs to be more forward when debating, especially addressing his opponent directly. The debate will really offer him the best opportunity to capture public opinion as a once crowded field is now down to two.