Well, OK, it is almost a month an a half before November 23, but by early November it will be wise to say that in at least half of the states the dice will have rolled. Let's have a quick survey.
Caracas and the art of fake polling
When I came back from overseas, I wrote a quickie update based simply on the knee jerk reactions of the government as a clear sign of them having bad polling numbers. Yet, in one week I have not been able to refine that feeling. Clearly nobody has really good polls in general and thus few people are publishing. The lone exception I found in the opposition side was the Consultores XXI poll for the Caracas region, and even that one was incomplete as the Libertador district, the largest one, was not included. Maybe someone has the complete poll or the link to it so I can gain further enlightenment? Still, that Globovosion fails to report on Libertador indicates that the opposition is far from having assured that district. No wonder: Stalin Gonzalez might have all sorts of qualities but he is an untested candidate and Claudio Fermin had an easy time to play the spoiler. As a result the opposition remains quite divided there and Jorge Rodriguez, the ex-CNE cheating honcho, ex-vice president hatchet, might squeak in with as little as 40% of the vote.
But to counter the rather positive outlook of Consultores XXI, chavismo did have its tailored poll in the person of some polling joint presided by Nelson Merentes. His figure as ex-finance minister and that he is a mathematician are supposed to give him some credit. Well, in an idle Saturday afternoon I decided to make a table to compare the results of Consultores XXI (who has predicted Chavez victories in the past) and the Merentes joint, curiously named Investigacion Social XXI and curiously alleged to be conducted almost at the same time as Consultores XXI. Of course, yours truly being extremely naive will not see anything suspicious about that. (pink: chavismo, pale blue: not chavismo).
The first observation is the extraordinary disparity in the results!!!! Clearly either someone has no idea on how to conduct polls or is a liar (or both?). But even in the "improved" numbers of Merentes we see flaws. He did not include Ojeda who has since declined for Ledezma. Even if the Ojeda electors were going 2 to 1 for Isturiz, I doubt Ledezma would have gone down 8 points! In Libertador he omits Fermin. Other evidence collected ehre and there suggest that Fermin and Stalin run neck a neck and I doubt very much that one resigning to support the other would leave that candidate with only 20% fo the vote. That is, Merentes acknowledges that Jorge Rodriguez is in trouble! Finally the Sucre prognostic is hogwash: all serious polls for the last 3 years have gone the Ocariz way. Merentes does not even have the finesse to make a closer race in Sucre to give it some credibility to his "research".
But then again this Merentes poll is not for critics like me, it is for the rough chavista base that has no idea on how to examine a poll and who is ready to swallow anything form above.
Yet such Merentes poll should not be dismissed outright. A quick Google search showed that such polls got a wide diffusion in many foreign papers who are printing that Chavez will lose at most three states comes November 23. As an example I give you an Argentine paper, El Argentino. Clearly these fake polls are heavily used by the chavista propaganda machine to create a foreign impression that he will win. Thus any cheating chavismo does in November will be much more believable for the readers of El Argentino who might have read this article. Meanwhile the opposition publishes very little and that little does not make it outside Venezuela. If we can understand that it is necessary to hide form chavismo where things go well and why, it will still be important to create at least overseas a better impression before November 23 if any talk of fraud is to be considered. Or have we forgotten the lesson of 2004?
If the polling situation of Caracas remains cloudy while giving the advantage to the opposition overall, in the rest of the country it is just cloudy, not much more since last time I put up prognostics. Fro example Seijas who works for chavismo gives Miranda and Merida to Chavez, in complete contradiction with Consultores XXI in Miranda. But this is published in Quinto Dia, a paper that I have long stopped reading for its overwrought ambiguity. Curiously another note that also uses this Seijas result also replicates the suspicious results of Merentes like joints giving to the opposition only Sucre, Nueva Esparta and Carabobo. Yet that note also mentions that there is a "delicate" situation in 5 other states including Barinas! so even pro Chavez notes talk of 8 possible losses, though not the same ones I have predicted. Interesting, no?
In general the best overall analysis comes, for once, from Datanalisis. Luis Vicente Leon explains why this election is far form over and why the PSUV had to bring back Chavez in the middle of the campaign, once again making it a plebiscite on Chavez. Leon underlines that in the past the strategy has served Chavez and thus he expects chavista numbers improve some. But he also says that chavismo has no other option but to try true and tried recipes as long as they have been working. There is no point trying to get into new strategies until the current ones are proven failed. Yet he also underlines a lot of reasons why this time that Chavez uber alles strategy might not work for the first time. We do sense from him a very moderate optimism for the opposition chances. He does not give numbers in El Universal but we can find some Datanalisis results in El Carabobeño. Gil Yepez, the director of Datanalisis is cited by El Carabobeño as saying that the opposition is well placed in Nueva Esparta, Sucre, Miranda, Carabobo, Zulia and Merida.
There is one detail worth noting: it seems that Leopoldo Lopez finally left his funk of not been allowed to run for office and he started doing what he should have been doing earlier if he were more of a statesman: he is starting to crisscross the country to back with his personal popularity other opposition candidates. The phenomenon is important enough to have been dutifully noticed by Forero of the Washington Post in as good an article as one can expect a foreign paper covering what are after all tedious local elections.
Chavez against the PPT and the PCV
All in all it seems wise to wait a few more days until giving a new state by state prediction. The more so that there is a new element in the campaign, besides the full integration of Chavez who spends now his days from meeting to meeting, as if he were the candidate to AVERY state... In the later part of this recent week he has started a massive verbal attack against the PPT and the PCV. These parities that had managed to remain inside chavismo while PODEMOS was booted, are now seeing that their effort at ingratiating themselves have come to naught. When the PSUV refused to allocate them a decent representation they decided to form dissident alliances, three of them in particular with the ability to topple the chavista candidate: Guarico, Portuguesa and Trujillo.
Well, Chavez got tired of that and went today as far as saying that "we are going to erase from the political map the PPT and the PCV". Of course, speaking of erasing the Communist Party of Venezuela is silly since as a religion such parties never disappear, even if they receive 0.1% of the ballots. Then again Chavez wants to be the new figure of communism once Castro is dead so it does make sense in his confused head to erase the storied PCV from the charts. Chavez went as far as comparing himself with Jesus saying that those who are not with his candidates cannot possibly be with him. Quite ecumenical, is it not?
Now this important and can badly backfire on Chavez. His objective here, in attacking his potential allies instead of what he should be attacking is due to the simple numerical fact that in these states the PPT et al. group has the votes and could well win or allow for the opposition to snatch a surprise victory, in particular in Guarico. On paper it is certain that such an emotional appeal could work wonders and rally enough PPT and commies to Chavez flag. But it has been 10 years of rule and even among chavistas there is lassitude. Those dutiful revolutionaries that have followed Chavez for years, who genuinely did not like the candidates imposed by Caracas against their local well known activist (the case of Portuguesa is telling for that) might just be tempted to stay home on November 23 or go ahead and even vote for the devil to teach Chavez a lesson. We will see, but meanwhile you will understand why I am reluctant to already update my predictions table, which at any rate would be still pretty close from the one on August 12.