Analysts note that the campaign of Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. in the 2022 presidential elections has been pushing the right buttons in solidifying his lead in the election surveys.
In the recent January Pulse Asia survey on the May elections, Marcos Jr. even extended his pole position by 7% to 60% of respondents from the previous December survey. Vice President Leni Robredo, meanwhile, ranked a distant second behind Marcos Jr. with 16% of respondents saying she will vote for her.
Though some political analysts and the campaign team of opposing candidates maintain that voter sentiment remains volatile up to election day, experts note that Marcos Jr.'s campaign team is also playing their cards right.
Archie Inlong, CEO of NPI Communication Consulting, Inc., said that Marcos Jr. as a candidate has also been disciplined and careful in preserving his "brand affection," where his very name is the message.
Even if a candidate has a better grasp of issues, personality may still win.
"Alam nila na meron silang tinatawag na power of the brand," Inlong told PhilSTAR L!fe. "He's not damaging it on his pronouncements, actions, campaign strategy."
For Inlong, what made Marcos Jr. gain ground in the surveys was also the actuation of his opponents, particularly those who support Robredo.
"Masyadong adversarial. Na-overlook nila iyong Filipino sentiment na pag inaatake mo ang isang tao, the sympathy goes to the object of the attacker," he said. "Masyadong virulent iyong effort na i-demolish ang Marcos camp," he added, noting that they don't use the energy and resources to promote their own brand instead.
Marcos Jr. himself, meanwhile, doesn't engage, at least overtly, in adversarial statements, Inlong said, and this has been helping his campaign.
"Tumataas iyong level ng commitment ng voterbase ni Marcos Jr.," he said. "Ang mga undecided, sa kanya pumupunta."
Vic Rodriguez, Marcos Jr.'s spokesman, previously said that he "does not and will not engage in negative and hateful campaigning."
Critics, however, note that though Marcos Jr. the candidate does not engage in such negative campaigning, some have been doing it on his behalf.
At a Senate committee hearing on Feb. 2, fact-checking initiative Tsek.PH reported that based on over 200 fact-checks since January 2022, trends showed that a "substantial volume" of disinformation are largely positive of Marcos Jr. At the same time, Robredo is the biggest victim of disinformation or negative messaging.
Twitter has also recently suspended over 300 accounts that are supportive of Marcos Jr., after violating the company's platform manipulation and spam policy.
Campaign's four Ms
In an interview with ANC on Feb. 17, campaign strategist Alan German took note of the four Ms in campaigns: man, message, machinery, and money. Marcos Jr., German said that to date, seems to have nailed every M in his campaign playbook.
For the man, German said Marcos Jr. appears to be evoking his late father "very much," with his manner of speaking, inflection, even the way he combs his hair.
"Not sure if his handlers are doing this very consciously," German said. "This really instills nostalgia in people, what they call the new nostalgia."
As for the message, German named three subcategories: alert, inspire, motivate. He said "inspire" is the most powerful one, as one links their candidacy to an abstract idea that's something to aspire for.
"Babangon tayong muli. We will restore the golden era...when there was discipline and order," he said.
Marcos Jr.'s machinery, meanwhile, is "well-organized and well-oiled," German said, even bolstered by the machinery of his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
"In terms of financial resources. I will not make any lengthy commentary but I think it is well-established," he said.
Marcos Jr.'s absence
Inlong said that while the recent Pulse Asia survey hasn't taken into account Marcos Jr.'s absence in major presidential fora, his non-appearance may even add a measure of "mystique" to his image.
"Pag di nagpapakita si Marcos Jr., nagkakaroon ng public longing," Inlong said.
CNN Philippines on Feb. 14 announced that Marcos Jr.'s camp declined its invitation for "The Filipino Votes: Presidential Debate" on Feb. 27.
He, however, on Feb. 15 attended the one that's hosted by SMNI—the network owned by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy who's wanted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for sex trafficking of children.
Marcos Jr. also turned down the presidential forum organized by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas on Feb. 4, citing "conflict of schedule" as excuse.
He had first declined GMA Network's "The Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews," with his camp accusing Soho of being "biased" against the Marcoses.
Inlong also noted the programs Marcos skipped are primarily consumed by the educated class, and much of the voting population would come from Class D or the masa.
"Iyong larger segment ng demographics mo, di naman nila tinitingnan ang points ng debate," he said, pointing out that even if a candidate has a better grasp of issues, personality may still win.
"Its purpose is to put them on a gallery and find out which of them can generate public affection," he said.
But basing from previous surveys where the early front-runner was eventually overtaken by another candidate, other campaign teams are making no matter of Marcos Jr.'s current survey leadership.