UPDATE 1-Brazil’s Rousseff cruises through last TV debate

* Rousseff has regained momentum, focusing on economy

* Debates have done little to change race

(Adds details from final debate)

By Stuart Grudgings

RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 29 (BestGrowthStock) – Brazilian ruling party
candidate Dilma Rousseff cruised through the final television
debate with her presidential rival on Friday as another poll
showed her heading for a convincing win in Sunday’s runoff
election.

Opposition candidate Jose Serra had a last chance to win
over undecided voters on Brazil’s most-watched channel, but he
opted not to go on the attack in a debate that had no heated
exchanges between the candidates.

The debate on Globo television was in a “town hall” format
with the candidates discussing questions from undecided voters,
leaving little room for Serra to corner the former chief of
staff of outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

As she has throughout the campaign, Rousseff repeatedly
stressed Brazil’s huge economic strides under Lula, the wildly
popular former union boss who hand-picked her to succeed him.

“The economy is growing, people are going up in the world,
28 million Brazilians have left poverty and I’ll bring the
remaining 20 million out of poverty,” said Rousseff, the
candidate of the left-leaning Workers’ Party.

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Full coverage of election [ID:nBRAZIL]

Election Top News page http://link.reuters.com/dux43p

Graphic on opinion polls http://r.reuters.com/vet88p

Special report on Rousseff http://link.reuters.com/fab25p

Political risks in Brazil [ID:nRISKBR]

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Rousseff, a 62-year-old career bureaucrat, leads Serra by a
comfortable double-digit margin and is on track to become the
first woman to be elected Brazil’s president, opinion polls
show. [ID:nN28164260]

A Datafolha survey released on Friday showed her holding
steady with a 10-point lead. Rousseff had 50 percent of voter
support compared to Serra’s 40 percent. The previous Datafolha
poll on Tuesday showed Rousseff leading Serra by 49 percent to
38 percent.

Former Sao Paulo state Governor Serra has failed to
convincingly win any of the debates so far as Rousseff has
fended off his attacks on her lack of experience and alleged
involvement in graft scandals.

The Globo debate has been a closely watched event in
Brazilian presidential races since 1989, when a poor
performance by Lula in his first run for the top job tipped the
election in favor of Fernando Collor.

Serra used the debate to push his argument that Brazil
should be doing better and is facing growing barriers to its
growth, such as an expensive currency, a high tax burden and
decrepit infrastructure.

Barring a major corruption scandal, which seems unlikely so
close to election day, or a huge collective opinion poll error,
the former leftist militant Rousseff appears certain to win.

COMMANDING LEAD

Rousseff would have a 12-point lead, with 56 percent versus
44 percent for Serra, once blank and void ballots are excluded,
as they are on election day, the new Datafolha poll showed.
Voting is mandatory in Brazil, but some leave their ballots
blank to show dissatisfaction with the candidates.

Rousseff has regained momentum after a drop in support
several weeks ago caused by doubts about her religious beliefs
and her alleged involvement in corruption scandals.

Such concerns probably deprived her of an outright victory
in the election’s first round on Oct. 3.

She has since steered the discussion back to the eight
years of strong economic growth under Lula.

If she wins, Rousseff is expected to continue Lula’s mix of
market-friendly policies and social programs while expanding
the role of the state in some areas of the economy.

Datafolha surveyed 4,205 people on Thursday for the poll,
which had a margin of error of 2 percentage points. Five
percent plan to submit blank votes or not vote for either
candidate, while 4 percent were undecided.
(Additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Rio and Hugo
Bachega in Sao Paulo; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

UPDATE 1-Brazil’s Rousseff cruises through last TV debate