Rejected in Madrid, Mr. Sánchez set off on a road trip, driving around Spanish towns in a bid to rebuild support among the party’s grass-roots supporters. To the dismay of the Socialist politicians who had orchestrated his ouster, Mr. Sánchez returned after only seven months to win re-election to the party’s leadership, defeating their favorite, Susana Díaz, the regional president of Andalusia, the country’s largest region and a Socialist stronghold.
Over the past week, Mr. Sánchez has come across as a leader who has matured after returning from the political wilderness. He debated forcefully in Parliament while striking complicated alliances with other parties, outflanking Ciudadanos, the party that wanted a snap election.
Mr. Sánchez returned wielding the holy sword of the legend of Parsifal, whose “steel has wounded but ends up curing,” wrote Rubén Amón, a columnist for El País. The appointment of Mr. Sánchez was against all odds, owed little to his own party and should be seen as “a personal triumph, a strictly individual victory,” Mr. Amón added.
The next step for Mr. Sánchez is to deliver on his latest pledges, including to “rebuild bridges” with the separatist parties that govern Catalonia and that helped him oust Mr. Rajoy.
Mr. Sánchez faces a difficult task in Catalonia; Spain’s judiciary is prosecuting former leaders of the separatists for rebellion. Last month, before he got his opportunity to become Spain’s leader, Mr. Sánchez called Mr. Torra “a racist” in reference to past insults from Mr. Torra toward Spaniards and their values. Last October, the Socialists also backed Mr. Rajoy when he imposed rule from Madrid on Catalonia to stop unilateral secession.
“It’s going to be complicated for Sánchez, but the fact that both sides are ready to dialogue is in itself a step forward,” said Jordi Hereu, a former Socialist mayor of Barcelona. “There’s an opportunity for these new leaders to show that they understand that this conflict has been going nowhere but has had a high cost, not least for the economy.”