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Mexico’s Presidential Front-Runner Extends Slide in Polls

Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico’s leading presidential candidate, saw his support slip for the third consecutive poll by Consulta Mitofsky after a series of campaign blunders.

Backing for the candidate of the once dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, slid to 41 percent in the Jan. 14-18 poll from 42 percent in December, Mitofsky said in an e-mailed report. While the decline was within the 3.1 percentage point margin of error, it brings the drop in his support since October to six points.

The former Mexico state governor enjoyed double the approval of any other candidate until he struggled in December to name three books that influenced him and did not know the price of tortillas in Mexico. The public gaffs are undercutting Pena Nieto’s popularity and should be a wakeup call to his campaign, said Javier Oliva, a political science professor at the Mexican National Autonomous University.

“He is much more exposed to the observation of the media than when he was governor,” Oliva said by phone from Mexico City. “Political parties and presidential candidates are not considering the Twitter and Facebook communities, where criticism of Pena Nieto has been much harsher than in the media.”

The poll was taken before a Jan. 22 El Universal interview with Pena Nieto, in which he admitted to having two children out of wedlock during his first marriage.

That revelation will “affect his current image in the media as the good guy, the well-behaved, handsome man who loves his children,” Oliva said.

Rival Candidates

Support for Josefina Vazquez Mota, who may become the candidate for the ruling National Action Party, or PAN, in February, was 23 percent compared with 21 percent in December, Mitofsky said. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, garnered 18 percent support from 17 percent last month.

On Dec. 3, Pena Nieto struggled when asked by journalists at a literary fair to name three books that influenced him, finally identifying the Bible and attributing a book by Carlos Fuentes to another author.

A week later, in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, he didn’t know the price of tortillas, and justified his lack of knowledge by saying he isn’t “the woman of the household.” He later said that he was referring to his “family context” and that the remarks shouldn’t be taken as an attack on women.

The Mitofsky survey polled 1,000 people.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nacha Cattan in Mexico City at ncattan@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net.

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