The 2022 Endgame

As April concludes, the endgame of the 2022 Presidential campaign approaches. April, shortened by Holy Week, is the last stretch of the campaign.

This final month is crucial for a number of reasons. First, voter conversion becomes more difficult as election day nears. It becomes harder to convert “hard” voters and “hard” non-voters as their biases for picking or not picking a candidate. Second, this is also the period when loss aversion kicks in. As the winning chances of the candidates become more apparent, “soft voters” of lagging candidates may move to the frontrunner. This is because some voters may want to avoid wasting their vote on a losing candidate.

Where does the Presidential race stand as of today?

The latest Laylo survey (conducted from March 15 to 22) reveals that Former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has retained his commanding 40 point lead. While his preference rating has declined by around 2% every month since January, the decline is statistically insignificant and he has a large-enough buffer to a major collapse. The votes of the other Presidential candidates combined are insufficient to overcome his lead.

Vice-President Leni Robredo is in second place. Her voter preference has increased from 6% in January, 11% in February, to 14% in March. But while she may appear to be gaining momentum, she has neither sufficient momentum nor time to further erode Marcos Jr.’s base or crack her glass ceiling of 20%. She has no choice but to reach out to Marcos Jr.’s indicative voters- the same people who have resented her since her narrow victory in 2016. Robredo is also carrying heavy baggage; up to 30% of respondents in the Laylo survey are “hard” non-voters, meaning they will never vote for her.

Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno and Senator Manny Pacquiao have both failed to materialize into viable “third choice” candidates. Moreno’s chances of winning disappeared the moment that he was unable to monopolize the Greater Manila vote (Metro Manila + Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal). Pacquiao’s perceived advantage among Visayan and Mindanaoan voters eroded when Sara “Inday” Duterte slid down to be the Vice-Presidential running mate of Mr. Marcos Jr.

Ping Lacson continues to face the same problems which he encountered in 2004. Like Rodrigo Duterte, Lacson has appeal among conservative urban-voters who value law and order. But unlike Duterte, Lacson does not have a significant ethno-linguistic base. His bailiwick is Cavite, which is part of the Greater Manila which Marcos Jr. has monopolized. Lacson’s early branding as a “policy-first” candidate also lost steam when he was evenly matched by Leni Robredo in the debates.

I won’t make any announcements of electoral victory at this point. April and May yet provide us with surprises. And perhaps the recent wave of Robredo-Sara (ROSA) and Robredo-Sotto (ROTTO) voters may yet manifest their effects in the surveys. However, Marcos Jr. remains the frontrunner by a wide margin.

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