Here’s what Juan Manuel Santos doesn’t have: He’s never been elected to anything. He’s terrible at giving speeches. He didn’t join Uribe until relatively late in the game. So why is he the front-runner to succeed Uribe? What’s his secret?
La Silla Vacia has published a long, interesting essay to answer that question. In a nutshell, Santos is an excellent politician. He always manages to pick the winning side. He has a history of accomplishing tricky policy victories. He’s a technocrat and a pragmatist. He’s a team player.
In that sense, Santos is very different from Uribe: He builds teams, recognizes the importance of having highly expert lieutenants, and he sticks with them through good and bad.
Technocrats love Santos because he listens to them, but above all because he’s able to get things done.
Finally, if Santos hadn’t gone into politics, he would have been in line to take the reins of El Tiempo, one Colombia’s largest, most influential newspapers and a backer of Uribe. La Silla Vacia suggests that Santos’ media influence goes even further:
Beyond his family’s newspaper, because of his past as a journalist and because he moves in the same social circles, Santos is personal friends with Julio Sánchez Cristo, María Isabel Rueda and Felipe López (owner of La Semana) among other influential journalists. This means that his version of the facts carries significant weight in the news que le atañen. Santos is the magician of spin.
Thus far, the polls indicate that Santos would not win in the first round of a presidential vote. But since Uribe failed in his bid to run for a third term, Santos’ numbers have been rising. As La Silla Vacia put it, “People like to vote for the one they think will win.”