Rudy Giuliani was never more popular as mayor of New York then right after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Gerhard Schröder won a surprising reelection in 2002 after staging himself as crisis manager fighting the flooding of the Elbe. And who knows if Barack Obama would have gotten reelected so convincingly had he not been seen as a crisis manager, who can put politics aside, when hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast a few days before the election. As I mentioned in my last blog post, a crisis can be an opportunity for a politician in an executive position. Voters consume more news than normal and they know more about what their leaders are doing than under normal circumstances.
The USA will elect a new president later this year. But also, Romania, Lithuania and Serbia, among others, are set to go to the polls this year. Ukraine will hold local elections. And so does Vienna. Many of these races have changed fundamentally. I always tell clients that an election involving an incumbent is foremost a referendum on the incumbent. If voters are satisfied with how things are going, a challenger barely has a shot. There is now one dominating issue, namely the corona crisis (both the health and economic dimensions). The all deciding issue will be whether people think the incumbent government is doing the best job it can given the circumstances or not. When people vote on an incumbent, they render a verdict. In this case, it will be a verdict on the crisis management. That’s now the elephant in the room and all the other issues and most challengers will likely be of minor importance.