Oft Underestimated Calderon Could Accomplish What Fox Couldn’t

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- While campaigning last April in the National Action Party (PAN) heartland of Los Altos, a dry region east of Guadalajara known for tequila distilling, blue-eyed inhabitants and conservative-Catholic politics, candidate Felipe Calderon scheduled a youth rally, an event that inadvertently highlighted his biggest shortcoming: a lack of charisma. Jaded members of the national press core -- who had already been riding the PAN campaign bus for three months and had barely reached the halfway point of their sojourn -- described him as gris (gray), a Spanish expression for dull.

As he entered the boisterous auditorium that Sunday afternoon, he timidly pressed the flesh, showing an obvious unease. It was a somewhat surprising scene considering the fact Calderon has spent virtually his entire life in PAN political circles -- he's the son of a party founder and has run for elected office at least three times previously. The four young breakdancers providing the pre-speech entertainment seemed more in their element than Mexico's current president-elect, who came across as anything but cool -- or even natural.

Calderon's diminutive stature, seemingly dull persona and wonkish image contrast greatly with that of his predecessor, Vicente Fox, a towering figure and slick campaigner, who when running for office in 2000 peppered his speeches with off-color ranchero slang and successfully sold the Mexican electorate on an agenda of change -- only to disappoint.

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