The three-way battle for the CDU chairmanship and the question of who should lead the CDU and CSU as the top candidate in the super-election year 2021 was interrupted by the Corona crisis. But now the competition is starting again. Instead of the end of April as planned, a successor to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is elected in December. The three applicants Armin Laschet, Friedrich Merz and Norbert Röttgen again set their accents in interviews and talk shows.
The crisis has changed a lot. It has given Merz and Röttgen the place on the sidelines: neither of them has executive responsibility, Merz doesn't even have a mandate to the Bundestag. Laschet, on the other hand, has become even more powerful as head of government. And in the federal government, the CDU is again almost 40 percent. So who benefits and who is harmed by the current situation? There are competing readings in the CDU for what the corona crisis means for the party presidency - and therefore most likely for the next Chancellor.
Armin Laschet, Prime Minister in NRW, is permanently present in the crisis. Early on he warned not to overdo it with the Corona rules - and to reopen the country quickly. Laschet, as can be seen, quickly anticipated the mood among the population and acted correctly. The population in NRW thanks him. In polls, his state CDU stands at 40 percent. Laschet was a favorite even before Corona - at least as far as the upper third of the CDU is concerned. And with many others as a reasonable solution. The crisis is unlikely to have changed much. The fact that he will take part with the efficient crisis manager, Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn - although this tandem solution actually only means that Spahn waives in favor of Laschet - will have increased his chances.
Merz leads in surveys
Röttgen was the outsider candidate from the start. However, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee also sees confirmation of the crisis: his role was that of the gentle multilateralist from the start - a trait that could be an advantage from the crisis in the EU, one hopes in his camp. At the same time, you can see with a certain amusement how unscrupulous and clumsy competitor Laschet sometimes appears in public - which Röttgen always coats well and rarely undermines in a world explanatory pose. Laschet's corona policy is less about content than profiling, Röttgen etched in an interview. And: Röttgen has beaten Laschet once, in 2010 he became the head of the NRW-CDU after a member survey.
The corona crisis was certainly the hardest for Friedrich Merz to cope with. His whole aura benefits from the fact that he can speak in front of an audience and make a hall cheer - something that neither Laschet nor Röttgen has handed down. Then he became ill with the virus himself, if only with slight symptoms.
However, for those who have been robbed of their sharpest weapon, the grand entrance, the surveys are orderly. 14 percent of all respondents believe that the Union would have the best chances with him, according to a Civey survey, which Der Spiegel quotes. Only half as many spoke for Laschet.
The CDU's Söder problem
In 2018, when he ran for the CDU chairmanship for the first time, Merz had a few weeks of preparation to win 48 percent of the delegates at the party conference in Hamburg. Not bad for a cold start to a second political career. This time he will approach his solicitation for votes even more precisely, one can assume that. In terms of content, it could of course help Merz if his economic expertise will be in demand again in the coming months.
In addition, not only will a new Bundestag be elected in 2021. State elections are pending in Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Württemberg, Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The Eastern Associations clapped for Merz in 2018. And he also has many supporters at the top in Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg. At the party conference, these state associations will think carefully about whom they want to have in their state election campaigns.
Merz has a problem, however. Because in the Spiegel poll he leads among the three CDU candidates. The real poll king, however, is Markus Söder: 48 percent believe that the CSU boss would have the best chances in the Bundestag election. The picture is similar at Infratest dimap: 53 percent of those entitled to vote say Söder would be a good candidate for chancellor in the Union. Merz (33 percent) leads Laschet (27 percent). The mood among the supporters of the Union is even clearer: Two thirds even consider Söder a good candidate.