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The front-runner in Mexico’s July 1 presidential election wants to drain the swamp (or, in his words, end the "mafia of power"), argues trade deals have hurt ordinary people and says it’s time to put the "Mexican people first." But Andrés Manuel López Obrador is no Donald Trump — he has been the standard-bearer of the Mexican Left for two decades. Now, on his third run, the former Mexico City mayor appears on course for the presidency.

Expand chart
Data: Consulta Mitofsky; Chart: Axios Visuals

The big picture: Two new polls put López Obrador ahead by 5 and 8 points in what is effectively a three-way race, solidifying his status as the man to beat. His anti-corruption platform seems a winning formula five years into Enrique Peña Nieto’s scandal-plagued term, and his supporters expect him to be far less accommodating of Trump than Peña Nieto has been.

Background

López Obrador entered politics in the late 1970s, holding a government post working with indigenous people in his home state of Tabasco. He was part of a leftist bloc that broke away from the PRI (long Mexico’s dominant party) in the 1980s.

His rivals have cast him as the Hugo Chavez of Mexico, but after his election as mayor of Mexico City in 2000 he governed in a fairly pragmatic style, and left office in 2005 with sky-high approval ratings.

Lopez Obrador makes a speech last week. Photo: Servando Gomez Camarillo/Getty Images
First two tries

The most controversial period of López Obrador’s political life came in 2006, when he declared himself president-elect prior to the official election results — which showed him losing by 0.56%.

He claimed the result had been rigged, proclaimed himself the legitimate president, and in the ensuing turmoil his supporters blocked a major road in the capital for six weeks.

López Obrador ran again in 2012, finishing second to Peña Nieto. After the election he left his party, the PRD, to form the Movement for National Regeneration.

Smart takes
  • The Atlantic, the “essence of López Obrador’s appeal” is “a radical belief in himself, what some have taken to calling a ‘messiah complex.’ But it is also this promise—that all will be all right once he is in power—that critics call his tragic flaw.”
  • The Economist, López Obrador has “fulminated against privilege, corruption and the political establishment. Sweep away all that, he tells poor Mexicans, and their lives will improve. Many others hear in that message the menace of a charismatic populist who would punish enterprise, weaken institutions and roll back reforms. The biggest worriers view him as a Mexican version of the late Hugo Chávez.”
  • Foreign Policy, “His campaign message is relatively simple. Everyone else is corrupt or craven, while he is not. Sensitive to criticism that he is a radical in waiting, he has highlighted policy proposals of austerity, low taxes, transparency, and nonintervention.”
What to watch for
  • Trade: López Obrador is far more NAFTA-skeptic than Peña Nieto, and would likely be less anxious to cut a deal with the Trump administration to preserve the free trade agreement.
  • Energy: López Obrador opposed Peña Nieto's move to end Mexico's state oil monopoly and sign contracts with private oil companies. It's unclear what steps he'd take as president.
  • Trump: "Without disrespecting him, we're going to put him in his place. We're going to make him come to his senses. We're going to respect President Donald Trump, but he's going to have to learn to respect us," López Obrador said last month.

What's next: The "pre-campaign," in which the candidates held rallies and jockeyed for position, ended last week. Now the race goes into hibernation until March 30, when the sprint for the finish begins.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

At least 125 dead in western India after landslides, monsoon flooding

Vehicles driving through a flooded street in Mumbai on July 19. Photo: Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

At least 125 people are dead after monsoon rains triggered landslides in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, authorities said on Saturday, according to Reuters.

State of play: Downpours lasting several days have impacted hundreds of thousands of people, as major rivers are in danger of breaking through their banks.

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

🚨: China wins 1st gold of Tokyo Olympics

📺: The Olympic events to watch today

🎾: Athlete spotlight - Naomi Osaka looks to snag gold on home soil

👻: How the no-spectator Olympics could affect the athletes

🇺🇸: "What an honor it is to watch you soar," first lady tells U.S. Olympians

🥇: The six new sports at Tokyo 2020

💉 About 100 U.S. Olympic athletes are unvaccinated

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

3 hours ago - Sports

China wins 1st gold of Tokyo Olympics

Silver medalist Anastasiia Galashina of Russia, gold medalist Yang Qian of China and bronze medalist Nina Christen of Switzerland celebrate on the podium after the 10m air rifle women's final. Photo:

China's Yang Qian won the first gold of the Tokyo Olympics, narrowly beating Anastasiia Galashina of the Russian Olympic Committee in the women's 10-meter air rifle final.

Why it matters: The first medal ceremony of the Games took on extra meaning after a year-long delay and other hurdles brought on by the pandemic. Athletes are required to hang medals around their own necks in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.