Such a result would force Merkel to seek new allies — either the Greens, seen as a long shot, or the SPD, with whom she previously ruled in a ‘grand coalition’ in her first term.
Merkel has already adopted many center-left policies, on issues from renewable energy to gay marriage, to gain the political center, depriving her rivals of issues to attack her on. Steinbrueck, 66, has so far had a luckless campaign, hobbled by gaffes.
This week he apologized for saying Merkel’s upbringing in communist East Germany made her a less enthusiastic European, comments that offended voters in eastern states.
Niedermayer said the SPD is failing to gain traction with its “core brand” issue of social justice. On many other issues the two major parties largely agree, like how to tackle the eurozone crisis, where the opposition has substantially backed the government.