Armin Laschet or the victory of the party cards over the charisma. He had the cards to win at least in theory. In June 2017, the mild-mannered Armin brings the CDU back to government in North Rhine-Westphalia, a social democratic stronghold but also the largest German Land with nearly 18 million residents. Laschet, then, is a more conservative Christian Democrat than Angela Merkel: his is therefore the ideal profile for a party tired of governing with the left and anxious to recover a conservative identity lost twenty years earlier with the departure of Chancellor Helmut Kohl . Laschet’s credentials appear even more impeccable in light of the mutual sympathy between him and the chancellor: the Rhenish governor is among the very few, if not the only, CDU executive to defend Merkel from criticism for opening the German borders to over a million of refugees in August 2015.
When at the end of 2020 the new president of the CDU and former daughter of the chancellor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, resigns due to obvious inability, he steps forward. However, the pandemic will force him to wait until January 2021 before congress elects him as party leader. The coronavirus then plays a worse joke on him: the repeated press conferences of the government and the Länder to decide lockdowns and refreshments highlight the governor of Bavaria Markus Söder, a separated brother of the Christian-social party. He too aspires to the role of candidate of all moderates. As president of the CDU, Laschet will (with difficulty) impose himself on Söder but his lack of charisma is accentuated by the exuberance of the Bavarian, a man of doing that the Germans fall in love with in the polls.
Merkel also signals her esteem for Söder. The rest is news: Laschet puts on one gaffe after another and laughs while President Frank-Walter Steinmeier mourns the victims of the July flood. Its popularity sinks – it is less popular even than the novice Baerbock – and that of the CDU follows its fate. To avoid a meltdown, Merkel tries to support him on a couple of occasions but it is now clear to everyone that in this round the moderates have bet on the wrong horse.