He ended the first presidential debate and left little room for spontaneity. So little, that there was hardly an episode in which the candidates left the script, but the viewers did not understand well what happened because their microphones were closed. And so corseted was the event, that we did not even see them shake hands – or refuse to greet – neither at the beginning nor at the end. Still, these are ten lessons he left behind.
First, no candidate emerged as the big winner or the big loser of the night. Each sought to spread his message, raising certain flags. Javier Milei charged against the rest as examples of the "caste"; Sergio Massa promised that he will lead a government of national unity; Patricia Bullrich invoked her courage and political power to do what needs to be done; Juan Schiaretti preached federalism; and Myriam Bregman charged against the IMF. Little and no surprise out there.
Second: Milei came out of the exchange successfully. He never lost control of himself, nor did he raise his voice, and even chose to smile when others challenged or chicanean him, or say that he is able to ask for forgiveness when he is wrong, as when he criticized Pope Francis. By how and on whom he concentrated his requests for replies, it was clear that he wanted to bypass Bullrich and concentrate on Massa, with whom he is competing for the Casa Rosada. More solid when discussing the economy – although he avoided talking about dollarization – he was weaker when addressing his vision of education and the vouchers he proposes as a model.
Third: Massa confirmed that it is Massa, able to affirm without blushing that he was not part of the government of Alberto Fernández until he took over as Minister of Economy – as if the Frente Renovador had not integrated the Frente de Todos since 2019, with him at the head of the Chamber of Deputies – or to maintain that his Government will be the one that begins in December, and not "this government," despite the fact that it has been leading the Economy Ministry for a year. In the same way, he maintained that they criticize him for his "capacity for dialogue", when in reality they screw him to be "advantageous" (Mauricio Macri) or "fullero" (Cristina Fernández). But he managed to get out alive from the back and forth. This is no small thing, given the very serious economic and social situation facing the country.
Fourth, Bullrich squandered the opportunity offered by the debate. He squandered his questions to the other candidates, to the point of not asking or even completing his ideas before the scheduled time. He struggled to convey his message coherently and assertively. She felt more comfortable when she tackled the security axis, but she showed a surprising lack of preparation compared to Milei and Massa, even though the candidates knew in advance what issues they would address and how much time they would have to express themselves. So much so, that Milei verbalized the general perception by chicanearla with which he offered him the third opportunity to explain his economic proposal because until then he had thrown "sarasa", that is, nothing concrete.
Fifth, in their wonderful book Debatir para presidir, academics Daniela Barbieri and Augusto Reina argue that one of the great benefits of presidential debates is that they allow voters to know all the candidates, particularly those who run from behind and tend to attract less journalistic attention. And Schiaretti (the only one from the interior of the country) and Bregman (from the left) took advantage of it. True to their style and their electorate, both should have ended the night satisfied.
Sixth: with a debate that limited spontaneity to a minimum, it was striking how little was alluded to the recent scandals of Julio Chocolate Rigau in the Buenos Aires Legislature and the resigned Chief of Staff of Axel Kicillof, Martín Insaurralde, on the yacht "Bandido" in the Mediterranean. There were only allusions in homeopathic doses, and it was striking that Milei did not invoke them to charge against the "caste".
Seventh, each candidate insisted on a particular topic. Milei repeated twice that "a different Argentina is impossible with the same old ones"; Bullrich hammered against Kirchnerism; Massa also charged a couple of times against the "criminal agreement" that Macri signed against the IMF; Bregman repudiated the IMF itself and economic power in general; and Schiaretti, as governor of Córdoba, became the defender and representative of the interior against the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires (AMBA).
Eighth: Milei starred in several of the most poignant moments of the night. In addition to accusing Bullrich of "sarasear" Bullrich, he told Bregman that he never entered – let alone worked – in a private company. He was also able to draw an attractive future horizon when he said that Argentina can be like Italy, France, Germany or the United States if given the opportunity and enough time. If we talk about boxing, the libertarian managed to position himself in the center of the ring for much of the evening.
Ninth: if the verbal language of Milei and Massa showed them comfortable in the back and forth, Bullrich's showed the opposite. With a pasty mouth, sticking out her tongue again and again to moisten her lips and drinking water from the spout of a bottle, the verbal language of the Together for Change candidate showed her uncomfortable and defensive, without a solid message or sufficient preparation. He committed unusual furcios, as when he asserted that "without inflation you do not buy a house." It will have to improve a lot for the second and last debate next Sunday, if October 22 it intends to reach the ballotage.
Tenth: the previous point brings us to the last reflection: each debate is important and has a life of its own. It is enough to remember the four that Richard Nixon and John Fitzgerald Kennedy maintained in 1960 to understand the relevance of preparing and facing each one as if it were the decisive one. Because, indeed, it can be. Milei, Massa, Bullrich, Schiaretti and Bregman will meet again on Sunday 8, in Buenos Aires. And much of their fate will be at stake in those two decisive hours.
Subscribe here to the newsletter of EL PAÍS América and receive all the informative keys of the current situation of the region.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
I'm already a subscriber