Wall Street made its preferences known well before the first round: the markets wanted change. Anything but Dilma, and if that meant Marina Silva, then by god she would be molded into the right market-friendly container! Washington had a slightly more sanguine view of the Marina surge, but most close Brazil-watchers likewise seized on Marina as the Obama-esque "change agent" who, embodying the demands of the 2013 protests, might propel Brazil to the next phase of political reform.
Moreover, Marina's sudden openness to agribusiness and trade deals, her gripping personal narrative, and her environmentalism suggested an opening for the Obama administration to re-kindle the near dormant embers of the bilateral relationship.
Surprise! Time to re-calibrate expectations and ask some questions. With Aécio Neves pulling in a respectable 34 percent of the vote, in an outlier scenario that he can draw enough for Marina's votes to prevail over Dilma, what would a PSDB government signal to Wall Street and Washington?
Applause all around, with a slight period of adjustment among the policy bureaucrats who are now resigned to the post-NSA low-key nature of Brasilia's interest, or disinterest in the once lauded "strategic partnership." But let's not kid ourselves, a course correction in Brazilian foreign policy under the PSDB is not expected to be dramatic. Just look at how Barack Obama's has become a war president in the second term.
The expectations of a second term Dilma presidency are for much more continuity than change in economic and foreign policy as well as in domestic priorities overall. Perhaps she will defy those expectations. But looking beyond October 26, some major questions remain.
What happened to the demands for major change embodied by the 2013 protests? How will the winner address them? Did cultural, green-minded progressives ultimately balk over Marina's temporizing on gay marriage and evangelism? Did her catch-all persona inadvertently undercut her once boundless appeal? Will Brazil's ever-expanding middle class find the leader it so desperately needs to truly break with politics as usual?
For those disheartened by the elusive idea of change in Brazil, these questions deserve answers. PT or PSDB in Planalto Palace next year, we've now seen this story play out five times before. It is true: Marina offered a vision of change, but one fraught with insecurity. Brazilians, who've experienced much and come so far in 30 years of democracy, may have simply rejected the potential return to the unknown.
As the campaign hurdles toward October 26, here's to hoping either Dilma or Aécio will make good on their promise to answer the deafening calls for change. As for Marina, while she may be down for now, perhaps -- like her once mentor Lula -- she will try again in 2018. After all, as the saying goes, third times the charm?
This article was originally published in Portuguese in Folha de São Paulo. It is originally available here.