Merkel Heir Switches to Attack in Sign of Election Desperation
(Bloomberg) -- German conservative candidate Armin Laschet is seeking to get his failing election campaign back on track by ditching his usual jovial demeanor and going on the attack.
The bespectacled 60-year-old premier of North Rhine-Westphalia is hoping to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor when she steps aside after next month’s election, but has seen the Social Democrats, led by their candidate Olaf Scholz, overtake his CDU/CSU alliance in several polls.
He said in April that he wanted a “happy” and “friendly” campaign, but appears to have decided that he needs to start fighting if he wants to win the Sept. 26 vote. It’s a sign of increasing desperation with the conservatives in danger of losing their grip on power for the first time since 2005.
In the first of three TV debates with Scholz and Greens’ candidate Annalena Baerbock on Sunday, Laschet aggressively attacked both his main opponents. He criticized the government’s handling of the Afghanistan crisis, and accused Scholz, the current finance minister, of not spending enough on Germany’s armed forces.
The strategy appeared to backfire. In a Forsa poll conducted immediately after the debate, 36% picked Scholz as the winner and only 25% chose Laschet.
At a news conference in Berlin Monday after a meeting of party leaders, he followed up by accusing the SPD of a lack of expertise. He also switched tack by presenting the first in a planned series of teams covering specific policy areas, something he had previously refused to do.
“We have strong thinkers in all policy areas, and that’s perhaps one of our very big advantages over the SPD,” Laschet said.
He has just four weeks to reverse a decline in support that has seen the conservatives drop to as low as 21% in one voter survey, with the SPD as high as 24% in several others. The Greens are third on about 18%, meaning that a three-way coalition is likely, possibly including the liberal Free Democrats.
“This is not a reaction to anybody else,” Laschet said. “I’ve always been a team player.”
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