The race for the presidency seems to be narrowing down to a duel between Vice President Noli de Castro and Senator Manny Villar based on the latest opinion surveys.
De Castro and Villar are closely followed by Sen. Francis Escudero, former President Joseph Estrada and Sen. Loren Legarda.
Sen. Mar Roxas, who has been touted as a “shoo-in” for the presidency after topping the 2004 senatorial elections, appears to be losing steam, while the rating of Senator Panfilo Lacson took a nosedive after the Dacer-Corbito issue came out.
De Castro has regained the lead with 18 percent voter preference, after losing it to Villar during the fourth quarter 2008 survey.
The first quarter 2009 (March 2-6, 2009) survey of Issues and Advocacy Center gave Villar 16 percent, and Escudero with 15%, Estrada with 13% and Legarda with 12%.
Only De Castro and Villar led in terms of geographical preference. The Vice President was the choice in Mindanao, cornering 20% of the 276 respondents in the peninsula. De Castro also emerged as the preferred candidate in Luzon with 17% edging Escudero and Estrada who both posted 16% in Luzon.
Villar was the runaway winner in the Visayas, posting a high 23% which is a clear 5% margin over the Vice President who registered 18% in the Visayas.
How Senator Villar will organize the Nacionalista Party to provide his presidential campaign with the political muscle remains to be seen.
Villar's camp, although lacking in manpower, compared to the political structure of the Lakas-CMD, is hopeful that the senator's business network may eventually form the backbone of his political organization.
The vice presidency will also be a close fight between Legarda and Escudero, who are both tied at 19% nationwide. Legarda leads in the National Capital Region with 23 percent against Escudero’s 21 percent. Escudero leads in Luzon with 19 percent versus Legarda’s 16 percent and in the Visayas with 17 percent versus 15 percent. In Mindanao, Legarda enjoys the lead with 21 percent against Escudero’s 19 percent.