For the first time I sense Juan Manuel Santos could lose the presidential election next month.
A poll which the Santos camp has reportedly refused to publish shows the president languishing on 19%, behind Enrique Peñalosa two points higher.
Now this is just a rumour, and all the official polls have so far shown Santos flat-lining on 25%, but after another disastrous month in which the president has flip-flopped, back-tracked, and inexpertly triangulated, perhaps Colombians have decided enough is enough.
Commentators at La Silla Vacia are now saying Santos’ campaign is limping from “tomb to grave”.
The president looks to be running scared, refusing to be seen in public debating with his opponents, and avoiding any discussion on policy, politics, or anything that takes him off script.
La Silla Vacia tell us the president has “all the mainstream media on his side, a big budget” and almost all “the political class and government” in his pocket.
This election is as an asymmetrical war, but Santos still can’t convince more than a quarter of Colombians that he deserves another four years.
The only saving grace for the president is that his challengers are hardly an inspiring lot.
Oscar Ivan Zuluaga seems a decent enough chap, but he’s a technocrat and as dry as piece of burnt toast. Clara Lopez barely registers. She may have a coherent argument but Colombia is not ready for a massive lurch to the left. And Marta Lucia Ramirez remains unknown by the majority of Colombians.
Enrique Peñalosa is the only hope. But again his campaign is based on the strategy of avoiding being seen. His calculation seems to be that the less he speaks about his policies the better the chance he has of winning. It’s not that I don’t think he has decent ideas, but he’s never on television or radio or on the public stage to explain them.
Back to Santos. His decision to reinstate Petro as Mayor of Bogota has made him look subjugate to the judiciary.
Throwing Petro out only to bring him back just a month and two interim mayors later makes Santos look impotent to events, moulded by when he should be shaping them. It could be the start of an inexorable decline in the president’s standing – the moment Colombians turn their back on what looks like a staggeringly rudderless leader
Even the incredibly Santos-friendly Semana magazine admits there is now a “crisis in the re-election campaign”.
Threats are growing of another farmers strike to coincide with the run in to May’s election.
Santos cannot afford to shamble on. He must take charge, grow some cojones and reverse the feeling many Colombians have that no one is governing their country. As I write this 70% of Bogota is without water.
The president should still win, but this week is the first time when his victory has looked in serious doubt.