“He’s the most interesting politician of the last eight years, the way he has risen to the top so unexpectedly,” said José Merino, a political analyst who supports Mr. López Obrador. “It was the fastest-growing political candidacy. It might be the fastest dying.” Mr. Anaya’s campaign declined requests to interview the candidate for this article.

Short and slim, with a buzz cut and glasses, Mr. Anaya, who practices yoga and meditation, cuts a bookish, boyish figure.

On the campaign trail, he has excelled in more refined settings — with business groups, for instance, or in academia — laying out his agenda in measured tones, his arguments smooth and precise, against the backdrop of an artful PowerPoint presentation, or nimbly engaging in question-and-answer sessions. In debates, he has demonstrated excellent preparation and a masterful command of the issues, running verbal circles around Mr. López Obrador — though apparently to limited effect in the polls.

Mr. Anaya, who is married and has three young children, is known for being remarkably punctilious and disciplined.

“He isn’t a guy you’ll find in a restaurant having a drink — never, never,” said Juan Ignacio Zavala, a newspaper columnist and brother of Margarita Zavala, who was a member of the PAN until, marginalized by Mr. Anaya, she quit last year to run for president as an independent. “He’s the kind of politician we haven’t seen often in Mexico.”

While both Mr. Anaya and Mr. López Obrador have pitched themselves as candidates who can offer a departure from the corruption and violence that has dogged the deeply unpopular administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, Mr. Anaya portrays himself as the safer, more moderate bet.

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