The mood is great on the hay market.

Several thousand people from Cologne came to see Olaf Scholz's election campaign.

Numerous leading comrades have also come.

Long before the candidate for chancellor appears, party chairman Saskia Esken, labor minister Hubertus Heil, environment minister Svenja Schulze, parliamentary group chairman Rolf Mützenich and health specialist Karl Lauterbach are in high spirits deep in conversation.

A band plays the song "We are family".

Pure burger

Political correspondent in North Rhine-Westphalia.

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It has been a long time since social democrats across the republic had seen such a carefree campaign as this one.

In the years after the Hartz reforms, comrades had to be insulted by passers-by on a regular basis, while social democratic campaigners now report interested, affectionate citizens.

But “the biggest and most surprising thing about this election campaign” admits General Secretary Lars Klingbeil a little later in a first round of talks with Esken and her co-chairman Norbert Walter-Borjans on the Cologne Heumarkt: “We are a closed party.

We are all behind Olaf. "

Scholz leads into the neoliberal pampas?

In fact, Olaf Scholz, the SPD's candidate for chancellor, never had a chance. At least at the CDU and CSU, everyone agreed on this. Three established Social Democrats failed in 2009, 2013 and 2017 because of Chancellor Merkel and her own notoriously divided party. Two of them - Peer Steinbrück and Martin Schulz - were ultimately able to do what they wanted in their respective election campaigns; they were committed to the role of loser or campaign clown. When the comrades were the very first party last year to lift Scholz, who had failed in the presidential election against the political lightweights Esken and Walter-Borjans, cabaret artists earned the first sure laughs with the phrase "The SPD has a candidate for Chancellor" . Klingbeil also remembers briefly in Colognethat it wasn't that long ago that some would have asked themselves why the SPD even put up a candidate for chancellor this time.

At that time, the SPD had cancer by a maximum of 17 percent.

With the dreary Finance Minister Scholz, the defender of the unpopular Hartz policy and the co-architect of the no less unpopular renewed grand coalition, even many comrades were certain that it would hardly be possible to spark any sparks in the election campaign.

Wasn't Scholz even denied being a staunch social democrat in the struggle for the post of party leader by Saskia Esken on a talk show?

And hadn't Norbert Walter-Borjans etched against Scholz, who at that time still stood for the black zero, that the SPD had allowed itself to be led into the neoliberal pampas by “lobbyists and false advisers”?

Male Merkel

In Cologne, Walter-Borjans is now certain: “We have a candidate for Chancellor, of whom the vast majority in Germany now say: You can rely on him.” Esken, of course, has long since overcome her doubts: “We have a social democratic decade infront of us.

We'll get the choice! "

Scholz had plenty of time to plan his assault on the Chancellery.

He applied for the role of male Merkel in a completely impartial manner.

He had himself photographed by a magazine with Merkel's diamond hand signal, and on some of his election posters Scholz advertises with the Helmut Kohl slogan “Chancellor for Germany”.

Basically, it would only be consistent if Scholz also hijacked Konrad Adenauer's promise of “no experiments”.

Scholz benefited from the weakness and the mistakes of his competitors. First, the Green Chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock fell on the credibility slide due to dishonesty in dealing with her résumé and a book that she and her helpers hastily cobbled together. Then Union Chancellor candidate Armin Laschet was thrown out of step by clumsiness in crisis management during the devastating July flood. Laschet also made it increasingly clear that the strategic dilemma that his promises for the future should not create too strong a contrast to the sixteen-year-long era of his party colleague Merkel, in order not to involuntarily contribute to a favorable change mood for the SPD and the Greens.Laschet - who has been successfully ruling North Rhine-Westphalia since 2017 - remained without a profile in the nationwide perception.