TALKS of “no-el” or no election scenario have not dampened the preparation of politicians angling for a government seat in May next year. This is more observable for those who are running for the Senate, a national position. They are visiting the provinces, making themselves visible while either laying the foundation or strengthening their national organization.

Among the “early birds” is Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, the oldest of the children of the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was seen recently in Cebu. She is being accompanied in her visits by her brother, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., a sign that the latter is turning over his organization to the former.

Bongbong won’t be running next year because that would mean abandoning his electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo. The Marcos family apparently believes that protest is winnable, so they are pushing Imee as Bongbong’s replacement in the Senate. If she wins, Imee could use that platform to aim for a higher target like her brother. Vice president or president could be it for them.

Meanwhile, the Duterte administration has been floating names of politicians that could be included in its senatorial slate. In mid-term elections, being in the administration ticket has many advantages, especially in logistics. Among the names already mentioned were Assistant Secretary Margaux “Mocha” Uson, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, former Metro Manila Development Authority chief Francis Tolentino and Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go.

It’s an interesting lineup considering that in other climes they wouldnot have even merited a look for the senatorial race. But all of them are banking on the administration’s resources and the “Duterte magic” to push them over the hump. Considering what has happened in the past two years of President Duterte’s rule, there is no assurance of them being able to sail smoothly to the Senate.

This is the only administration I know that immediately became controversial the moment it took over Malacañang. While the President has his share of fanatical supporters, he also has developed an array of critics that is battling the so-called diehard Duterte supporters in social media and everywhere. These two forces can sway the undecided segment of the population to each other’s side in a jiffy.

In the United States, where Republican President Donald Trump’s leadership style has invited Duterte comparisons, the political backlash is forming. The Democrats have so far been trouncing Trump-supported bets in some elections because Trump critics have become determined in correcting their failure to prevent a Trump win in the last presidential polls.

The senatorial race next year would become a truer barometer of Duterte’s popularity than social media or even Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia surveys. Unlike in the 2016 presidential elections where voters’ support were split among many candidates, the senatorial race would be a one-on-one battle between the administration and the opposition. If the opposition unites, the administration’s senatorial slate would be in for a difficult fight.