Martelly seems an improbable savior. Just a decade ago, he was donning skirts and wigs, cursing, and drinking like a sailor while performing his flamboyant act.
“When he first declared himself a candidate, people didn’t take him seriously because he was the guy who dropped his pants on stage,” says Robert Fatton, a Haitian-American professor at the University of Virginia. “His persona, which should have been a handicap, became a plus. It was really a very clever campaign.”
Instead of turning his back on his flamboyant past, Martelly used pieces of it to motivate the youth vote and to position himself as a political outsider. The bubble gum pink splashed on his campaign posters and vehicles was a nod to his old act, as were the rallies, during which he mixed policy with stagemanship.
The other side of the candidate was presidential. “He managed to, in a way, be all things to all people, which is very hard to do in politics,” Professor Fatton says.
“He took the advice of a lot of very smart people and that was important,” Professor Colon says.
Martelly hired Madrid-based Ostos & Sola, a consultancy that played an important role in the election of Mexico’s Felipe Calderón. Martelly’s public point man at Ostos & Sola helped run the John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.