But their attempts to move into national politics have worked less well
João doria, who until April was the governor of São Paulo, Brazil’s richest state, is a colourful character. He hosted a Brazilian version of “The Apprentice”, while a sex tape featuring someone who looks like him went viral. But during the primaries last year to become a centre-right party’s presidential candidate, he opted for tameness. “João Doria is boring, but competent,” his campaign video declared. His team hoped it would distinguish him from the two, divisive frontrunners for the election in October: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a leftist former president, and Jair Bolsonaro, the populist incumbent. It did not work. Mr Doria (pictured) secured the nomination, but struggled to attract broader support. When he dropped out of the race in May he was polling at 2%.
Brazil’s 27 governors have less power than their American counterparts. They have the profile of a ceo, but the responsibilities of a middle manager. Municipalities are in charge of doctors’ surgeries, primary schools and collecting the rubbish; it is their logos that adorn buses and welfare payslips. Governors are limited to doling out funds for road-building, prisons and hospitals. They have little tax-raising power, relying on the federal government for transfers (at least some of which are discretionary). As a result, their work is often overlooked. When voters are asked to rank levels of government by their importance, state politics comes last.