Weeks before Germany goes to the polls, Armin Laschet is trying to burnish his credentials with forward-thinking voters by meeting Elon Musk and visiting Tesla's new factory rising from a sandy plot near Berlin.
The yet-to-be finished facility will serve as the backdrop for a wavering campaign to be Germany's next chancellor in need of a much-needed boost.
Laschet has been falling in the polls, creating an opening for his two main rivals, the Green Party's Annalena Baerbock and Social Democrat Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.
Musk has opportunities to seize, as well. Tesla's first plant in Europe, where electric cars are quickly catching on, has been delayed by regulatory issues and has fallen months behind schedule.
A personal encounter with Musk could help rub some of the charismatic company leader's star power on Laschet, 60, who occupies the more no-nonsense end of the political spectrum. It's the Greens who have long dominated the narrative of how to chart a path into a future of electric cars, vegan food and solar energy.
"I am glad that Elon Musk has just texted me and that we have agreed to see each other tomorrow," Laschet said Thursday, according to German news agency DPA. "This of course also underlines the common desire to make such an investment possible also in other fields in the future. To do this, you have to talk to each other."
For Musk, a meeting with Laschet provides a chance to build a rapport with the man who at this point still looks most likely to succeed Angela Merkel at the helm of Europe’s largest economy.
While Laschet's rivals have been catching up, his Christian Democratic Union remains the most popular party with a 23 percent backing, followed by the Greens at 20 percent and the SPD at 19 percent, according to a recent poll by the Forsa institute.
One of Laschet's main campaign promises has been to cut through the red tape that has long bedeviled ambitious projects like Tesla's. Whether he can come through for the company or not, Musk’s more than 59 million Twitter followers will be watching.
Musk's frequent trips to Berlin have been followed relentlessly on social media. A Twitter account dedicated to tracking the movement of his private jet picked up on his presence in the German capital before CDU officials were aware of his plans to be part of Laschet's welcome party.