When you drive north from Mexico City toward the city of Querétaro, you notice a big change when you pass out of the states of Mexico and Hidalgo into the state of Querétaro: The road in Querétaro is wider, smoother, much better paved.
That's not accidental. The boundary between Hidalgo and Querétaro is the boundary between the north and the south of Mexico, between the part of the country that has prospered and grown and the part that has not done as well since the ratification of NAFTA in 1993. On the outskirts of Querétaro you see sparklingly clean and orderly factories, shopping centers with Wal-Marts and big supermarkets. The historic center is kept spotlessly clean; old buildings have been carefully renovated; crime is low. People in Querétaro are proud of their city and their civic culture. They are proud that American businessmen who are transferred there say that living in Querétaro is very much like living in the United States.
The boundary between Querétaro and Hidalgo stands out vividly in the political map. North of the line, PAN candidate Felipe Calderón carried all but three small states. To the south, he carried only two, one of them by a narrow margin. It is as if Mexico were two separate countries, one strongly PAN, the other favoring the leftist PRD candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador. You could say the same thing, of course, about the United States or about Canada, as I observed in a post after Canada's election in January. Utah and Massachusetts vote as if they were in two different countries. Canada's provinces and major metropolitan areas have very different voting patterns: Montreal voted for the Bloc Québécois; Toronto went heavily for the Liberals; Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta voted overwhelmingly for the Conservatives; Vancouver was split three ways among Liberals, Conservatives, and the leftist New Democrats.
Today I want to look more closely at the vote in Mexico, based on returns from 98.45 percent of precincts for the 31 states and the Distrito Federal (Mexico City). Mexico's electoral commission, IFE, is as I write expected to declare Felipe Calderón the winner by a 36-to-35 percent margin over López Obrador. Mexico's electoral system is far more fraudproof than ours (see my recent blog post and Mary Anastasia O'Grady's piece in today's opinionjournal.com), and although PRD will challenge the results, I am close to completely certain that they will hold. In any case, the regional divisions will hold up.
The following tables show the stark political divisions in Mexico. I note the percentages for PAN's Felipe Calderón and PRD's Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the share of the total national vote for and the popular vote margin between PAN and PRD in each region. I have left off the PRI's Roberto Madrazo, who finished a poor third with 22 percent of the vote. He finished second in several states in both the north and the south but won only 15 percent of the vote in metro Mexico City.
State PAN PRD % vote margin
MEXICO 36 35 100 + 402,708
Border 46 22 17 + 1,598,672
North 48 22 23 + 2,240,261
Center 36 34 12 + 76,246
Mexico City metro 30 49 32 - 2,353,057
South 20 46 13 - 1,333,700
Yucatán 39 25 3 + 175,286
Most Americans see Mexico's big border cities as impoverished and hopeless. But in fact they are places of upward mobility and economic growth. Voters in the border states solidly rejected López Obrador's promises of economic redistribution and renegotiation of NAFTA. This was true, even a little more so, of voters in the North. In cities like Querétaro, Guanajuato, León, and Guadalajara, people enjoy a way of life that is evolving toward something like Texas. The states of the North produced a popular vote plurality for Calderón that came close to canceling out López Obrador's plurality in metro Mexico City.
López Obrador was not as uniformly successful south of the Querétaro-Hidalgo border as Calderón was to the north. He won a big margin in metro Mexico City, where the percentage of voters turning out was higher than in any other region. His record as mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005 was surely in large part responsible; he ran well ahead of PRD congressional candidates. López Obrador provided payments to the poor and completed big public works projectsdouble-decking the western Periferico highway and building huge bridges to connect fast-growing communities to the west. López Obrador is, in my view, a demagogue but a skillful one, a man who does not just make promises but is capable of delivering on at least some of them: Think Huey Long.
But his appeal did not necessarily travel. In the states of the South, where indigenous languages are spoken in many communities, he had a wide lead and a popular vote plurality that came close to matching Calderón's in the border states. But he ran only even with Calderón in the center states of Puebla and Veracruz. And Calderón carried the fast-growing Yucatán states by an impressive margin.
We can collapse these results into three regions.
North 47 22 40 + 3,838,933
Center 30 49 32 - 2,353,057
South 29 39 28 - 1,082,168
Why didn't López Obrador run as strongly in the South as Calderón did in the North? We get some idea of the reasons from the exit polls; I'm relying on the one printed in Monday's Reforma. www.reforma.com.mx Interestingly, it reports that men gave López Obrador a 37-to-36 percent edge, while women voted 38 to 32 percent for Calderón: In Mexico, unlike the United States, more men than women vote, and men vote more left than womenpresumably because of PAN's historic identification with the Roman Catholic Church and because more women than men are religious. Urban areasa majority of the countryvoted 40 to 35 percent for Calderón: Presumably, that's why he carried the states of Puebla and Yucatán and nearly carried the state of Veracruz. Rural areas voted for López Obrador but by just a 36-to-31 percent margin.
Most interesting is the split by income. My voter interviews in Mexico City suggested a big split between the poor and the rich, between those with little in the way of economic prospects or dependent on the public sector and those moving up in the private-sector economy. The Reforma exit poll paints a somewhat different picture. Yes, the rich (comparatively) did deliver large but not unanimous margins for Calderón. But the poor were pretty close to evenly divided. I have converted Reforma's economic categories, based on pesos per month, into the more familiar (for us) dollars per year, at a rough conversion rate of 11 pesos to the dollar. I have included the percentage for Madrazo this time.
Income PAN PRD PRI
Under $2,181 31 34 30
$2,181-$4,362 32 29 24
$4,363-$7,089 36 37 21
$7,090-$10,035 43 36 16
Over $10,036 50 30 14
One conclusion: Calderón won only because he was able in a three-way race to win one third of the vote from the poor (the lower two categories). He was helped because significant numbers of the very poor clung to their traditional PRI allegiance rather than vote for López Obrador; PRI percentages diminish appreciably as you go up the income ladder. The middle-income group is split evenly between the two candidates. Calderón leads, but not overwhelmingly, in the second-highest income group. His lead is bigger50 to 30 percentamong those with incomes above $10,000, but it's not unanimous. My sense from my time in Mexico City is that many public-sector and university graduates with high incomes supported López Obrador out of some combination of economic interest and leftist conviction.
Let's go back now to the macro picture. Both of our NAFTA neighbors, Mexico and Canada, have voted center-right parties into office this year. Both by plurality rather than majority, to be sure, but nonetheless voters understood that the real choice was between PAN and PRD in Mexico and between Conservatives and Liberals in Canada, and in each case the center right came out ahead. This doesn't establish that these countries are reliably center right, not at all. But it does mean that they are not reliably on the left as well. In both cases, they have rejected the partiesPRI in Mexico and Liberals in Canadathat could plausibly claim to have been historically the only parties representing and having support in the whole nation. In both cases, they have rejected the partiesPRD in Mexico, Liberals in Canadathat had the overwhelming support of the metropolitan elite in their largest citiesMexico City and Toronto. In both cases, the winning party has won with large margins in the economically vibrant hinterlandthe North and border states in Mexico, Alberta in Canada.
You could go farther and say that we have had the same results here in the United States. American voters rejected, again by a narrow margin, the Democrats, who have a historic claim (though increasingly a distant one) of representing the whole nation (the Republicans having no support in the South from the 1860s to the 1950s). They rejected as well the party of the metropolitan elites in New York and Los Angeles. The Republicans won because of big margins in the economically vibrant hinterlandTexas, Georgia, Utah. And so we have the NAFTA nations led by the Texan George W. Bush, the Albertan Stephen Harper, and the Guanajuatan Vicente Fox (the symmetry breaks down here: Felipe Calderón is from the state of Michoacán in the South).
Earlier this year, many observers thought they saw a surge toward the left in Latin America and a rejection of the so-called Washington consensus favoring free trade and free markets. Now the picture looks different. Yes, Hugo Chávez has been using his oil money to bolster the anti-American left in the region, and, yes, his candidate Evo Morales did win in Bolivia. But leftist candidates were soundly rejected in Peru, in Colombia, and, by a very narrow margin, in Mexico. In Peru and Mexico, the winning candidates both made gains in the polls by likening their opponents to Chávez. The new president of Chile is from a party of the left, but it is a center-left party that negotiated a free-trade agreement with the United States. Brazil, with half the population of South America, votes in October, but its president, Lula da Silva, has proved to be a center-left, not a Chavez-left, leader, and the government there is likely to continue on its current course whether or not he is re-elected. The Washington consensus may be fraying, and it has its vocal (and in the case of Chávez, oil-rich) opponents. But its death, like Mark Twain's, has been prematurely reported.