The FDP now wants to be loved by voters for its own sake.

“This time you shouldn't vote tactically!” The party's federal chairman, Christian Lindner, calls out to the audience from his election campaign stage, wherever he appears.

Lindner says: "This time you should listen to your heart." The recommendation no longer has much to do with the understanding of roles that the FDP once shaped for decades.

And something else is different.

Often there are quite a few youngsters standing around Lindner's stage wagon during this election campaign.

In Hanover, where he was performing these days, numerous students appeared in the crowd.

Johannes Leithäuser

Political correspondent in Berlin.

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Not only the clientele of the FDP has changed. In the upheavals of the political landscape, the Free Democrats have also modeled their goals and profile differently. On the Sunday before the general election, the leader Lindner issued a new target at a party conference in Berlin: third place in the list of results on September 26th. That sounds familiar for a second - wasn't the FDP always the “third force” after the Union and the SPD? Now, of course, third place means: being stronger than the Greens, that is, the party that the Free Democrats have long perceived as their worst competitor - because they contested third place decades ago, because they recently succeeded in the sympathy of the electorate to catch up with the two larger political forces Union and SPD.

And unlike the figureheads of those three competitors, Christian Lindner does not bear the title of candidate for chancellor - he wisely refrained from doing such a pull-up after his predecessor Guido Westerwelle suffered severe political tensions during such an exercise almost two decades ago.

But even with the self-designation of Chancellor Candidate, Lindner would probably not have been admitted to the television arena in which the other three Chancellor candidates measured their strength three times during the election campaign.

The Free Democrats' campaign team has tried everything to make up for this lack of television presence.

Suddenly in a political dirty corner

Lindner greets from almost all lamp posts, from many advertising pillars, from almost every green area. And he himself tries to translate the absence in the "Triell" format into an advantage at his rallies. Lindner then asks who among the audience has seen one of those television candidate rounds. Usually many arms go up. “And how did you find it?” Usually the boos then increase. Lindner continues with the question of whether it was noticed which topics did not appear with any syllable - and then starts with "the most important social task of our time", education policy.

Climate protection and Corona, the two front runners in the hit list of this election campaign, are no longer at the top of Lindner's speech framework - although the FDP has owed a lot to these two “mega-topics” over the past year and a half. After electoral defeats in the East German states and after the catastrophic escapade of the Thuringian FDP top candidate Thomas Kemmerich, who was elected Prime Minister with the votes of the AfD parliamentary group, the FDP suddenly found itself in a political dirty corner.