Armin Laschet wants to snatch a surprise victory in the German elections

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It will be a difficult request. Even in his home country, gaining support for the CDU has been a difficult climb.

“I have never campaigned in such a brutal and stressful election campaign,” said Gisela Manderla, CDU Bundestag candidate for Cologne, the largest city in North Rhine-Westphalia.

“But I believe Laschet can start over and get another surprise victory.”

There are many undecided voters to win, she added, and many voters were waiting until the last day to make their decision.

With more votes than ever cast by mail, 40%, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this could prove critical to the end result. It is believed that more Conservatives vote by mail than supporters of other parties.

Mr. Laschet’s activists on his own ground point out his warmth compared to a distant and cold Mr. Scholz. “He looks people in the eye when he talks to them,” said one Cologne resident,

“He’s a real Rhineland,” said Ms Manderla, “and he has his own ideas. He’s a staunch European, for example, and he’s a politician who can bring people together.

“He doesn’t want to be Merkel 2.0 and has always tried to part ways with her a bit but it’s not easy for him to find the right balance between being a follower or his own man.

Olaf Scholz, the vice-chancellor of Merkel’s coalition government shamelessly presented himself as a candidate for continuity.

Mr Laschet has earned a reputation for flip-flopping in his response to the pandemic, and he is disappointed he did not make a single appearance in Cologne, where Mr Scholz held a rally on Friday.

Ms Manderla admits she is “nervous” about keeping her seat in the city, Germany’s fourth.

She said she had never faced so many CDU voters asking her why they should support the party.

The shadow of Ms. Merkel also looms. Many have asked him why ‘Mutti’ can’t just run again.

In response, Mr. Laschet was forced to deploy the chancellor on an election campaign in a last ditch effort to wrest victory from Mr. Scholz.

“He needs her,” said Ms Manderla, from the CDU campaign headquarters in Cologne. “But I don’t think Merkel ever thought she would have to do so many campaign events.”


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