Haddad was not named to replace da Silva until Sept. 11, less than a month before the first round. Still, he outdid the other candidates to finish second with 29 percent of the votes in the first round and earn a spot in the runoff.
Bolsonaro almost won outright, though, getting 46 percent. And Haddad could never make up the ground. Bolsonaro easily won Sunday with just over 55 percent of the votes, compared to just under 45 percent for Haddad.
The Workers’ Party and others betting against Bolsonaro underestimated the power of his simple campaign platform and messaging ability, particularly on social media.
His promises, like Trump’s, were easy to digest: He would bring the fight to criminals with brute force, clean up corruption by jailing politicians on the take and give the Brazilian economy the kind of tough love it needed via pension reform and privatization.
Perhaps nowhere did Bolsonaro better make his case than during his near-daily Facebook Live sessions. Wearing a T-shirt and sitting at an empty table, he looked into the camera and just talked. For many Brazilians exhausted by stories of politicians plundering public coffers and living lavish lifestyles, the image of a stern and austere father figure ready to bring order to the house was refreshing.
Bolsonaro doubled-down on his social media strategies after he was stabbed and nearly died while campaigning Sept. 6. Within a few days of the attack, he resumed talking to followers via videos and tweets issued from his hospital bed.
“Bolsonaro is the voice of people who want to speak but don’t feel they can because they fear being politically incorrect,” said Carlos Manhanelli, political marketing specialist and chairman of the Brazilian Association of Political Consultants. “He presents himself as he is, and in the minds of voters that is authentic.”
While Trump’s victory was a surprise, a Bolsonaro win looked increasingly inevitable the last month.
Perhaps the clearest sign came in late September when anti-Bolsonaro marches organized by women’s groups brought tens of thousands to the streets, yet polls soon started saying Bolsonaro’s support among women was actually rising steadily.
That trend continued to the point that polls Saturday had him supported by 42 percent of women voters, compared with 41 percent for Haddad.
Valentina Collet, a 48-year-old doctor in Sao Paulo who voted for Bolsonaro, summed up the calculus that many women made.
Bolsonaro “is everything I don’t believe in. I’m against violence. I’m against weapons. I’m against his attitude,” she said, then added: “We fought so hard to pull the Workers’ Party from power. So, in the end are you going to vote the same thing back in?”