SANTOS, Brazil – A steady light rain fell and a thick, cold fog hung in the air in this coastal port city outside Sao Paulo. It was eerily quiet, as firefighters and investigators picked through an ugly debris field bagging anything that could lead to clues on what caused the plane crash that killed Eduardo Campos, one of Brazil’s top up-and-coming political figures.
Campos was not going to win Brazil’s presidential election in 2014, but he very well might have in 2018. And he knew it.
Campos was a politician entering his prime, and at only 49 years old, he was a man with time on his side.
He was positioning himself on the national political stage as a fresh-faced, modern, populist unattached to the two main political parties in Brazil.
He was wildly liked in his huge northeast home state of Pernambuco, where he was governor for seven years and left office with approval ratings of more than 70 percent.
And while he was well known, and more importantly respected by the elite political class in Brasilia, he was – until his death – little-known by most rank-and-file Brazilians outside his home state.
Campos could still walk the streets of Sao Paulo campaigning and have people passing by ask: “Who’s he?”
This is why he was running for president. To raise his national profile and influence, and likely run again in four years when he had a real shot at becoming president.
Tuesday night was in many ways his big coming out party. He was in Rio de Janeiro to do a live, nationally televised interview on the main evening newscast on Globo TV network, watched by tens of millions every night.
Less than 24 hours later, Eduardo Campos was dead.
In the coming days and weeks there will be huge political fallout from his death. An election to see who will lead the country with the world’s seventh-largest economy is nearly six weeks away.
There will be plenty of time for speculation on what this all means in the near and long term political landscape. (Short answer: A lot.)
For now, Brazil is without a man who likely could have been the president in the coming decade. Campos’ wife and five young children are without a husband and father.
No matter their political leanings, most Brazilians went to bed Wednesday night agreeing on one thing: Eduardo Campos was a man who died far too soon.
Follow Gabriel Elizondo on Twitter @elizondogabriel