Unemployment has dropped to 8.9% in Spain, the lowest it has been for years, according to the government. Auto sales are up, corporate profits are up, the stock market is holding steady, and annual growth is projected at around two percent; that figure may well be too low. If "it's the economy, stupid", then the PP should do well in the May 25 municipal and regional elections, because the economy is in pretty good shape. It's amazing what a balanced budget will do for your economy, and Mr. Aznar is looking at a fourth consecutive full year of balancing the budget in 2003. This is a lesson that Mr. Bush should perhaps learn. Mr. Aznar's other big policy tip for Mr. Bush has been "Let Powell talk more and Rumsfeld talk less", good advice for PR purposes in Europe.
If I were Mr. Aznar, I'd be running hard on a "you never had it so good" platform, while playing on the factors the voters most appreciate about him and his administration: efficiency, honesty, experience, knowledge, and the handling of international affairs. I'd also be running on reliability, something along the lines of "I'm the guy who makes the tough decisions and is honest with the people about them", when the SocioCommunists criticize him for the past year's publicity black eyes the PP has suffered.
Finally, I wouldn't worry about the fact that people don't much like Aznar personally. Aznar doesn't seem like a very likeable man to me, either. He's better off with the situation as it is now without risking the disaster of faking an attempt to get close to the ordinary folks. Aznar's big negatives are that he is not perceived as willing to dialogue and that he is perceived as being distant from the people. Well, those things are true. Aznar is no glad-hander and he's cold, and he's pretty arrogant when he thinks he's right, which is most of the time. People have voted for him anyway because he is seen as competent and incorruptible and the Socialists are seen as not competent to organize the seventeenth annual Sigma Nu "JamaicanMeCrazee" theme party without stealing the keg fund, much less a government.
Don't risk your positives on trying to present Aznar as something he isn't. It won't work. Let the people like Zap more than they like Aznar. They trust Aznar a hell of a lot more than they trust Zap. Don't blow that trust by setting up some goofy meet-the-people photo op where Aznar does something dumb like eat a tamale with the cornshuck wrapper still on. (Supposedly Jerry Ford did that one year in Texas at some Republican outreach to the Hispanic community kind of thing.) The Catalanists got laughed at big-time about a year ago when they hired a fairly well-known flamenco-rock band, Maite Vende Cà, to play a neighborhood fiesta they were sponsoring in Nou Barris, Barcelona's Andalusian ghetto, and tried to get the crowd to listen to their politicians speak between acts. Of course they got roundly booed and hissed at. Let's us not do anything like that.