Over the past two years, while many of Brazilâs traditional political parties and powerful kingmakers were busy defending themselves against corruption allegations stemming from the investigation known as Lava Jato, Mr. Bolsonaro flew around the country, drumming up support, particularly among young men, and in comparatively wealthier and whiter areas.
While rivals spent small fortunes on marketing firms, video editors and consultants, Mr. Bolsonaro relied primarily on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the instant messaging service WhatsApp to communicate with voters and expand his base.
Opponents enjoyed far more advertising time on television and radio â which is allotted by party size â and rolled out slickly edited campaign materials. But Mr. Bolsonaroâs campaign drowned them out with a bare-bones, scrappy communications strategy. He and his sons broadcast shaky, poorly lit videos on Facebook and Instagram in which Mr. Bolsonaro cracked jokes, took aim at adversaries and bemoaned the state of Brazil.
On WhatsApp, supporters created hundreds of groups to share memes, videos and messages that often contained falsehoods and misleading content that cast Mr. Bolsonaro in a positive light and disparaged his rivals.
One dominant message, spread widely via WhatsApp, asserted with no evidence that Mr. Bolsonaroâs opponents encouraged schoolchildren to become gay or reconsider their gender identity by employing sex education materials referred to as âgay kits.â
âI like what Bolsonaro stands for,â said Cintia Puerta, 55, an architect in SÃ£o Paulo, said Sunday after voting. âMy sister works in a school so I know they are teaching âgay kitsâ to children, teaching them about sexuality at age 5 and 6. Theyâre indoctrinating children in the school.â
Mr. Bolsonaroâs presidential ambition nearly ended on Sept. 6 when a man sliced a knife into his stomach during a campaign rally, slashing his intestines and several other organs.