Steinbrueck’s Tears Betray Campaign Emotion Amid Slump in Polls

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s main challenger, Peer Steinbrueck, teared up at a party event that sought to play on his compassionate side, as a poll showed his Social Democrats at their lowest level of the year.

Steinbrueck, in an on-stage interview yesterday with his wife Gertrud, was overcome by emotion as she told an audience in Berlin they enjoy simple pursuits such as playing scrabble, and that the chancellor candidate pilloried in the German media for perceived gaffes wasn’t the man she knew.

“He must have really wanted to change something in order to give up something like that voluntarily,” said Gertrud Steinbrueck, according to a video of the event posted on the SPD’s website and run on television channels today. Steinbrueck was unable to respond to his wife’s comments, and signaled his discomfort with his hands. The audience gave them a standing ovation.

Little more than three months before the Sept. 22 election, Steinbrueck may need to adapt his campaign strategy to whittle down a poll lead of 16 percentage points held by Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc after policy announcements and the unveiling of a shadow Cabinet failed to make an impact on voter support.

Steinbrueck’s SPD dropped a point to 25 percent in a weekly Emnid poll for Bild am Sonntag newspaper yesterday. That’s the lowest level since January, and compared with 41 percent for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union-led bloc. Emnid polled 2,727 voters on June 6-12. No margin of error was given.

‘Compassion Effect’

“It’d be surprising if an emotionalized campaign brought a significant change” in support, Reinhard Schlinkert, the director of pollster Infratest Dimap, whose survey two days earlier put the SPD at 26 percent to 41 percent for the CDU-led bloc, said in an interview today. “The compassion effect usually doesn’t help much.”

Steinbrueck, Merkel’s first-term finance minister, last week laid out his party’s plan to undertake a get-out-the-vote operation in the final phase of the campaign to attract disaffected voters. Also last week, he fired his chief spokesman having failed to gain any resonance with voters on a campaign of social justice and tax increases.

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