FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

We are exactly a month to the deadline for filing of candidacies and yet all the political camps seem to be in flux.

The PDP-Laban had considered postponing its general assembly meeting, although the latest information is that they would continue with it on Sept. 8. We are not sure if a full slate of candidates will be presented.

The “ruling” party endorsed Bong Go as its presidential candidate and Rodrigo Duterte as vice presidential candidate. Go has since declined the offer and applied to run as vice president in tandem with Sara Duterte. It would be unseemly for the party to field only a vice-presidential candidate – Rodrigo Duterte – in a vital presidential race.

Meanwhile, Manny Pacquiao seems to have accepted the possibility his wing of the fractured party might not win Comelec recognition. He declared he was ready to run as an independent. He has not named a runningmate, much less a senatorial slate to back up his probable bid.

Leni Robredo, Sara Duterte, Grace Poe, Dick Gordon and Isko Moreno are still hedging. None of them seems ready to declare just yet. Only the Lacson-Sotto tandem has been declared, albeit unofficially.

Should Leni decide to run, her only option if she remains within the 1Sambayan framework is to take in Antonio Trillanes as runningmate. That does not seem to be a combination that will sweep voters off their feet. It looks more like a shotgun marriage with Trillanes threatening hell if he is not selected.

Over the last few days, the conversation about Leni revolved around the possibility of her running for senator. She denied wanting to do that, but the conversation about sliding down is not an encouraging sign. If she does not run, this will orphan a bunch of LP politicians seeking reelection.

Of all the probable candidates for president, only Sara Duterte seems to have an ample supply of potential runningmates. She enjoys an impressive lead in the voter preference surveys and has been endorsed by several political parties.

Among the potential runningmates, aside from Go, are: Bongbong Marcos, Win Gatchalian, Sonny Angara, Gibo Teodoro and Martin Romualdez. In addition, President Duterte announced that Imee Marcos was also seeking to run with Sara – a claim the Davao mayor has denied.

Except for Romualdez, all the potential runningmates for Sara are Luzon-based politicians. Of these, Bongbong Marcos enjoys an edge in drawing power at the ballot box. Bong Go, also from Davao City, will add no new votes to the partnership he wants to join.

With a good supply of possible runningmates, Sara has the luxury of forming a more balanced combination. All the “applicants” will be weighed according the how much they might add the electability of the standard bearer.

Traditionally, the choice of runningmate was calculated along the north-south axis. If the presidential candidate is from Luzon, the preferred vice presidential candidate should be from the Visayas or Mindanao. This is the conventional wisdom. Such a geographic balance is thought to be optimal in attracting votes nationwide.

Over the years, our voters have been thought to be more cosmopolitan and less attached to ethno-linguistic identities. The voter preference surveys, however, show marked disparities in political choices according to region or ethnicity.

The conventional wisdom about regional “balance” has led to talk about Pacquiao possibly sliding down to contend as Isko Moreno’s runningmate. That will give the Manila mayor’s edge among Luzon voters an additional southern pull.

Pacquiao, however, has rejected the idea of sliding down to a vice presidential bid. He likely sees this proposition as a demotion. His ego cannot take that.

The less perilous option open to the boxer is to run for reelection as senator. But after having burned most of his political bridges, he might not have a party to take him in. This might be the reason he has been talking lately about retiring – not just from boxing but also from politics.

Sara’s bailiwick is, obviously, Mindanao – although the island accounts for only about 15 percent of voters. A Pacquiao presidential run might dent but will not divide Sara’s Mindanao vote. But Mindanao’s votes alone will not elect the next president.

An obvious “balance” would be to combine Sara’s Mindanao vote with the Marcoses’ “solid north” voting base. But fielding a Marcos has its drawbacks, too. This is the reason Rodrigo Duterte took in Alan Cayetano as his runningmate instead of Bongbong Marcos in 2016.

A Duterte-Marcos combination seemed logical in 2016. It combines Duterte’s “solid south” with the Marcoses’ “solid north.” But Rodrigo Duterte, the maverick, did not go by the conventional wisdom. Both Marcos and Cayetano lost to Leni Robredo.

Over the last few days, Marcos has made some noises about going for the highest prize. If he makes a run for the presidency, this will surely cut into Sara’s voting base, considering Moreno dominates the balance-of-Luzon voter preference outside the Ilocos. The only way to avert that is to take him in as runningmate.

It is more often said that politics is a game of addition. In some instances, it is also a game of subtraction.

In the end, we will likely see the usual six or seven candidates for the presidency. In a multi-candidate situation, anyone with a chance of getting 20 percent of the vote will make a go at it.

The quixotic project of having a “unified opposition” candidate is likely dead in the water. In our system, presidential elections are all about the future – never about the past.

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