NEWSMAKER-Brazil's Neves rides calm, pro-business message into election runoff
By Caroline Stauffer
SAO PAULO Oct 5 (Reuters) - In Brazil's most unpredictable election in decades, it was the candidate with the old-school family pedigree and a calm, presidential air who turned the race upside down with a dramatic late surge.
Stuck in third place and all but written off just a week ago, Senator Aecio Neves, 54, comfortably grabbed second place in the first round of voting on Sunday and will face President Dilma Rousseff in a runoff on Oct. 26.
He now has three weeks to convince voters who backed the candidates eliminated on Sunday that his brand of austere, pro-business policies are the best bet to lift Brazil from three-plus years of economic stagnation.
Neves' image as an insider from the biggest opposition force, the centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), was a problem throughout much of the campaign.
Voters looking for change after four years of Rousseff's leftist rule threw their support behind a more novel candidate who promised a break with politics as usual - environmentalist Marina Silva.
But when attack ads and Silva's own unpredictable behavior hit her campaign, opposition voters went running back into the reassuring arms of Neves.
He won almost 34 percent of the vote on Sunday. He trailed Rousseff by around 8 percentage points so she is a slight favorite to win the runoff.
But recent polls showed that more than half of Silva's supporters would back Neves in the runoff, while only a quarter were leaning toward Rousseff and the rest were undecided or said they would spoil their ballots in protest. Silva had around 21 percent support in Sunday's election. Continuación...