The newest populist poised to make it big on the world stage isn't in Europe but instead on the United States' southern border. And he's gunning for President Trump.
Former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, often just called AMLO, is leading in the presidential polls for next year's elections, and he could end up being Trump's biggest challenge.
La fórmula para el renacimiento de México consiste en cero corrupción e impunidad; promover el desarrollo y garantizar bienestar y seguridad pic.twitter.com/GDTHHzh83b— Andrés Manuel (@lopezobrador_) April 16, 2017
He is "stridently nationalistic," said Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington. "Quite anti-Yankee."
During a March tour through U.S. cities, Lopez Obrador, the founder of Mexico's new leftist Morena Party (National Regeneration Party), made that clear when he said, "Trump is blaming migrants for problems in the U.S., and we are not going to permit this." At Washington's National Press Club, he added, "In the end it's neo-fascism."
He also has blasted Trump's planned border wall and petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to protect illegal Mexican immigrants in the United States.
Wood, in a phone call from Mexico City, said Lopez Obrador is the anti-Trump. He has been in politics for decades and has run two losing presidential campaigns. But he is up by 10 points in the polls for the July 2018 election and is building a strong base among the poor and anti-establishment forces.
Trump's anti-illegal immigrant, pro-wall position is helping Lopez Obrador's campaign and boosting his popularity at a time when current and unpopular President Enrique Peña Nieto is trying to work with Washington.
"He has a more strident, anti-Trump approach, and he would not nearly be so moderate with Trump," Wood said.
But the expert said that the two also share some key traits, such as using social media and press management to control their message.
He said, for example, that Lopez Obrador often would hold early-morning press calls or news conferences as mayor of Mexico City to steer the day's coverage and now is a master of YouTube. Trump can do that with just one tweet.
What's more, he said that Lopez Obrador has a record of changing or moderating strident positions, much as Trump has done on several campaign promises.
"He is in a great position right now," said Wood of Lopez Obrador. But will he win?
"That's a big if," he said, noting how much time is left in the campaign and the candidate's occasional practice of making campaign mistakes. What's more, Lopez Obrador had a bigger lead in the polls in 2006 when he lost by less than 1 percent to Felipe Calderón for the six-year term.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com