MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The woman who would like to become Mexico's first female president is solidifying her standing as the grass-roots favorite to represent the country's ruling party in the 2012 election, according to opinion polls on Wednesday.
A survey in daily Milenio showed lawmaker Josefina Vazquez Mota widened her lead over fellow members of President Felipe Calderon's National Action Party (PAN) -- including Finance Minister Ernesto Cordero -- although the chance of her becoming Mexico's president remained slim.
The poll showed 39.4 percent of voters close to the PAN thought Vazquez Mota should be the party's candidate in 2012, followed by veteran PAN legislator and former presidential candidate Santiago Creel with 30.3 percent. Cordero, a close confidant of Calderon, was in third place with 11.4 percent.
In the previous month's survey by Gabinete de Comunicacion Estrategica, Vazquez Mota, a former education minister and now leader of the PAN in the lower house of Congress, had a lead of seven percentage points over Creel.
Vazquez Mota is not the first woman to run for Mexico's presidency, but is seen as having better odds than her predecessors as she comes from a major party. No official candidates have been selected by Mexico's three main parties.
The results were echoed in a separate poll by Mitofsky, which also confirmed the main opposition party, the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), as the frontrunner to win the elections due on July 1, 2012.
The PAN is under increasing pressure to contain violence from its war against drug cartels and public opinion has intensified following the torching of a casino in Monterrey last week, which killed 52 people.
The Mitofsky poll, conducted before the casino attack, showed 38.9 percent of voters preferred the PRI while the PAN had 19.2 percent support.
Support for Vazquez Mota varied between 16.7 percent and 22.6 percent depending on the candidates fielded by other parties, but all of the match-ups put the PRI ahead.
The PRI, which ruled Mexico for seven decades before it was ousted by the PAN in 2000, is expected to field the outgoing governor in the State of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, in the 2012 poll.
The GCE poll canvassed 500 voters and has a margin of error of 2.53 percent and 5.66 percent depending on the division of responses and was conducted on Aug 30. The Mitofsky poll canvassed 1,000 voters on Aug 20-24.
(Reporting by Krista Hughes and Miguel Angel Gutierrez)