And just like those squads, the PRI came to the end of its run this weekend, losing not only the presidency but also a number of key government positions to challengers for the first time, um, ever. The big winner: Ex-Coca-Cola exec Vicente Fox and his National Action Party. Fox beat PRI candidate Francisco Labastida in a close race that in many ways came down to a question of style. And swagger.
Put the two men side by side, and there's no question whom you'd want backing you up in a barroom brawl. Fox is a six-five bruiser who oozes physical self-confidence; Labastida at five-ten comes across as something of a wimp not least because he's perceived as clinging to the skirt of his powerful and intelligent wife, Maria Teresa, who has drawn comparisons with Hillary Clinton. When Fox some weeks ago punned on Labastida's name, dubbing him "La vestida" (meaning "the dressed woman" or "the skirt"), he started a machismo bidding war that made the campaign look like a "Saturday Night Live" skit. The negative campaigning, though, is one sign of Mexico's maturing democracy. And the fact that the PRI is now faced with making its bones flattering voters, moving to the center and making promises it can't keep just like its U.S. counterparts is another. Paging Dick Morris there are some new opportunities for you south of the border, down Mexico way.