Polling shows Ebrard in a tight race with ex-Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, who has followed Lopez Obrador’s lock-step on policy. Many polls indicate Ebrard is better known, but Sheinbaum is more popular among MORENA’s base. A survey published May 26 by the newspaper Reforma gave Sheinbaum a slight edge.
Both contenders promise to defend Lopez Obrador’s vision.
Aides to the president have told Reuters they believe he would most like Sheinbaum to succeed him. Lopez Obrador denies this and says voters must decide.
Some officials close to Lopez Obrador privately backed Ebrard.
“We need to unite the country,” said one.
Ebrard is careful not to criticize the president. But he has staked out his own turf.
On June 11, MORENA’s leadership agreed guidelines for the nomination contest stating contenders should avoid talking to media deemed conservative or hostile to the administration.
The next morning Ebrard gave an interview to journalist Ciro Gomez Leyva – a regular target of Lopez Obrador’s broadsides – and declared himself open to all media, drawing fire from some MORENA supporters.
Ebrard dismisses such criticism and says his legalization of same-sex marriage and abortion when Mexico City’s mayor was more radical than anything his detractors can lay claim to.
His independent streak has fed speculation he could break with MORENA if he feels the contest is unfair. Ebrard denies this but has repeatedly called for a level playing field.
Vowing to prioritize security, healthcare, education, and growth, Ebrard underlines the economic opportunity presented by so-called nearshoring – increased investment spurred by Washington’s trade tensions with China.
In February, when Lopez Obrador threatened to deny billionaire Elon Musk’s Tesla permission to build a plant in northern Mexico over water supply, Ebrard stepped in to ensure the deal prospered, three officials said.
Lopez Obrador has given MORENA’s contenders room to maneuver by calling the succession “continuity with change”. But some Ebrard supporters hint he may be too independent of MORENA.
“Sheinbaum agrees with Lopez Obrador’s political project,” said one senior executive backing Ebrard. “Ebrard would be a different project.”
A native of Mexico’s poorer south, the folksy Lopez Obrador frames his presidency as the victory of a downtrodden majority over a corrupt, ‘conservative’ minority.
The president, who has described sectors of the middle class as classist and racist, forged his electoral success on years of campaigning in forgotten rural areas, rewarding support with higher welfare spending and major public works.
The tall, bespectacled Ebrard, a veteran Mexico City political operator, is less at home in remote villages. He has instead targeted younger, metropolitan Mexicans, making light of himself in TikTok videos peppered with pop cultural nods.
Lopez Obrador wants MORENA to win a two-thirds congressional majority in 2024 to reshape the judiciary, which has resisted his efforts to strengthen state control over the economy.
Ebrard is best placed to win that super-majority, argued MORENA senator Martha Lucia Micher.
“If we don’t get two-thirds,” she said, “everything we want to do will suffer.”