Polls: Mexico's presidential race tightens

Associated Press
This combo picture of three file photos shows presidential candidates, from left, Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, Josefina Vazquez Mota of the National Action Party, PAN, and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, PRD, during different events in Mexico City. Mexico will hold presidential elections on July 1, 2012.  (AP Photo, Files)
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This combo picture of three file photos shows presidential candidates, from left, Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, Josefina Vazquez Mota of the National Action Party, PAN, and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, PRD, during different events in Mexico City. Mexico will hold presidential elections on July 1, 2012. (AP Photo, Files)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's former ruling party has lost momentum in its campaign to win back the presidency, two new polls indicated Thursday, although they differed over how much the race has tightened.

The candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, Enrique Pena Nieto, has long been seen as the inevitable winner of the July 1 election, leading potential rivals by more than 20 percentage points in many polls.

But the 45-year-old former governor of the State of Mexico has made several verbal gaffes on the campaign trail, and senior figures in his party have been hit by a series of allegations of financial wrongdoing and ties to organized crime in recent weeks.

The candidate of the now governing National Action Party, Josefina Vasquez Mota, has appeared confident in public appearances and made few significant errors since she was selected last month as the first female presidential hopeful of a major Mexican political party.

The polling firm GEA/ISA says the difference between Pena Nieto and Vazquez Mota has dropped to 7 percentage points, with 36 percent of voters favoring Pena Nieto and 29 percent backing Vazquez Mota.

He had a 20-point lead in a January poll by the same company.

Pena Nieto told reporters Thursday that he is still ahead in all the polls. Vazquez Mota, 51, wrote on Twitter that she was "very excited" about the results.

The Parametria polling firm also found Pena Nieto losing ground to Vazquez Mota, but to a lesser extent. It puts Pena Nieto 17 percentage points ahead of Vazquez Mota, 49 percent to 28 percent. The gap is down four points from its January survey.

The third major party candidate, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, had 17 percent support in the GEA/ISA poll and 19 percent backing in Parametria's survey.

"I was expecting the race to be tighter and now the polls are showing that," said Macario Schettino, an analyst and professor at Monterrey Technological Institute. "What we don't know is if this will become a trend, and the PAN will eventually catch up and overtake the PRI."

Both pollsters interviewed 1,000 potential voters. The first poll was conducted Feb. 17-19, with a margin of error of four percentage points. The second survey was done Feb. 24-26 and had a three-point error margin.

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