With the endorsement of Pablo Perez by AD and the one today of Proyecto Venezuela to Leopoldo Lopez we can see the final pieces falling into places as next week we will have the formal signing up of candidates. There are 10 in total though it is quite possible that a couple more may drop by then. The last endorsement to be made of any importance is the one from COPEI. But as it was the case with AD, their endorsement might come too late to make a big difference. In the case of PVzl, even if a smaller party, there is the advantage of all but delivering the state to Leopoldo something that neither AD or COPEI can do at this time for any state even if they may deliver more votes over all. You may think this unremarkable but think about the other primaries at stake, for governors and mayors, and that way you may realize that PVzl may have decided to share Carabobo with Voluntad Popular and force out anyone else there. Leopoldo may not win in the end but the gamble to control all of Carabobo is worth taking in their eyes.
But I digress and today the objective is to start the primary race with political analysis and graphs and predictions and what not. Today we will limit ourselves to review briefly the candidates and speculate on the real possibilities of each one.
We have two lists, those that have a chance at more than 20% and those that do not. Surprisingly things have not changed that much since the first survey in August, nor my September opinions on the candidates. Steadiness is nice, the more so when compared to the increasing turmoil inside chavismo. But I digress again.
The front runners
There are three now, confirmed by polls. I am giving them as most polls give them, even if in at least one the order is completely different. But at this point I would advise anyone to stay clear from electoral polls as none of them in my opinion is able to figure out how the 50% that vote in humble areas will or will not participate in the primaries. Most polls you see around these days are, admittedly or not, based on big cities. I personally will not give any credence to any poll until its field work is at the very least mid November.
The one that looks ahead at this writing is Capriles Radonski (HCR). I watched on TV his Falcon/Coro visit last Friday and I was duly impressed by the turnout at his rally. Clearly his campaign is organized, has a theme and sticks to it. I am surprised that HCR has become the candidate of "the left" and that his message is so directed at the soft chavista electorate. I have my doubts as to its effectiveness to win the primary and even the general election, but so far he seems to be pulling it off.
Pablo Perez (PP) has suffered a lot to gain the nod, first having to convince Rosales of 2006 to withdraw and then AD which waited until early this week to go ahead. Thus the local side of PP has been contrasted with the more national stature of HRC and Leopoldo Lopez (LL). PP has suffered from that comparison as HCR and LL have managed noted initial trips through Zulia which mean that PP will win there but maybe not with the landslide he needs to compensate his weaknesses elsewhere. That is where AD comes into play and why PP and his party UNT have courted them so unabashedly. Distracted by the ego of Rosales UNT has wasted a lot of time since 2008 in building a base outside of Zulia and the Andes. Even an upstart like LL who had nothing but his name in 2008 seems to have bested UNT in organization in many areas of Venezuela. Thus it is the hope of the PP camp that the political baggage of AD will be compensated by their ability to give them organization where they lack it (assuming that AD legendary organization has still embers worth rekindling).
Leopoldo Lopez is now the third one here, and climbing, but still heavily handicapped by the "uncertainty" as to whether he will be able to take office if he wins. If it is clear for me that a victorious LL cannot be barred from entering Miraflores Palace, this is not as clear with "el pueblo". For example the owner of the "fruteria" that I visit in San Felipe loves LL but will vote for Capriles because she genuinely thinks that LL will be barred from taking office and thus the sash will be given to Chavez even if he loses. The woman is humble but she is not an idiot: after all she has been steadily improving her produce store over the last 10 years. But my arguments, I sensed, failed to impress her. Except the one that whatever they do to LL today they can do to any other tomorrow and thus she should follow her heart rather than propaganda from the state.
The only one of note here is Maria Corina Machado. You can say whatever you want about her, mock her "popular capitalism" but she moves her butt, she goes after the vote and her message is noted (whether it passes is a different affair). She also spends almost as much on TV adds than the other guys so she is backed by some folks. She is also willing to debate and she is becoming the non-HCR which could help her if HCR panders too much to the soft chavista side. Right now I give her a 10% but she could still reach higher numbers. But she suffers from the original sin in politics made by 90% of independents: they believe they can manage without an organized party.
Antonio Ledezma is now toast. After courting AD relentlessly he failed to gain their endorsement. I think his days in the race are counted although he will valiantly post his name next week. He should focus on Caracas where he has a chance of repeating though he may face a difficult primary.
Believe it or not, the only one that may stay until the end is Diego Arria who clearly is doing his primary campaign as a self sacrifice. That is, the guy is offering his health, money and time to make sure that certain issues remain in discussion and are not forgotten by the other guys. Say as you may, you need to at least acknowledge that courage.
The other candidates have no life but we will still name them one last time before we forget about them.
Eduardo Fernandez apparently will not manage the support of COPEI. I am even wondering whether he will dare list his name next week.
Pablo Medina is a has-been whose notice never reached his mail box. And all the left parties are already behind Capriles anyway. I suspect he is running just to make sure he is not forgotten and given a shot at some local election such as heading a municipal council list. Besides he may not make it this week because he needs to collect a not insignificant amount of money to sign in and he does not have moneyed backers.
Cecilia Sosa? What the hell is she doing there??
THE STARTING POINT
Since I have given up on polls for the time being, what can we use for an initial evaluation? Well, there are the results of the Latin American Parliament election of last year (Parlatino). They give us a nice glimpse of vote spread among political parties although one must hasten to say that today it is probably quite altered. So let's look at this numbers as merely a "potential" and we will wait to combine them with more reliable polls in December.
The first graph is the total of these votes which already is a good piece of news: the combined opposition, something that we can say now that the PPT has endorsed HCR, is ahead of chavismo. And there is nothing that chavismo has done since fall 2010 that could have reversed that, even the sympathy for Chavez cancer.
On the left are the three lists that were not with Chavez. As such indeed the PSUV on the right is ahead. But now that PPT has joined the opposition to Chavez if we add up the three separate lists we get 52% of the votes cast in 2010 and that is indeed real bad news for Chavez as this is as close a predictor for a presidential election as we have right now. True, a lot of folks did not vote for the Parlatino as they have no idea what that is for, but nevertheless that makes already 400,000 votes that Chavez needs to make up. Though one may argue that a large portion of the PPT will go for Chavez.
I am not going to bother you with the detail of the Parlatino vote. A graph will suffice, graph that is ordered according to the major endorsements already announced, and assuming that COPEI will go for PP.
In this graph the inner ring is the distribution of the Parlatino vote according to the CNE results of 2010. They are not classified on ideological parameters (as if this were possible in today's Venezuela!) but on who endorsed who.
In the outer ring we sum up these endorsements. In the blue frame we have those that went for Pablo Perez. On paper it looks that he has a lock on it. But in the next graph I will let you know why it is not true.
The brown and black frame gives you the endorsers of HCR. Good, but not enough, on paper.
The light blue frame is LL. there is only PrVzl and a small "unity" card that in 2010 LL told his supporters to vote for (I did then, though as much to support him than to support no one in particular).
And finally there is the absolute Ledezma potential with ABP which should make him withdraw any time soon.
In grey we have all the minor parties which may or may not have endorsed someone but the newspaper blips on Google news were too hard to dig for, if they exist. Let's say that these are the vote for grabs, and on paper this advantages PP as surely he should get a portion.
Each total of votes is given and is the opportunity for me to repeat that a 3 million vote turnout for the primary can be considered a huge success and send ripples of worry in chavismo. That is, if the opposition manages to drag half of its support for the primaries it will be already good under any international standard. And anything above will mean that many chavista may have also gone to vote for a Unidad candidate. I personally expect that to happen and right now I dare predict that the turnout is going to be around 4 million in February.
However this nice distribution above is very unlikely to happen and in the next graph I do my very first, gut based prediction of "potential" vote. That is, this is what I think each candidate is really starting with.
Let's take for example OPINA, which was the vehicle for Hernan Escarra in the Parlatino vote. Even though he has endorsed PP, does anyone believe that he can guarantee that 100% will go there? And so on.
I did my own private speculation as to how much of an endorsement will carry. I am not going to let you know how I did it because it was rather fast and rather gutsy. But when I added it up I got the graph on the right which tells that I am not so far of what is going on right now. For example I am sure that 50% of the votes of PPT will not go for HCR, nor 30% of COPEI votes, at the very least, for PP. Thus we get a large pool of "uncommitted votes" which I conveniently put as a rainbow.
The inner circle now is the outer circle of above. And the outer circle is my very own gut feeling prediction. And look, HCR loses less than PP and is almost as big now. Which is reflected in polls where he has an early lead even though PP was not campaigning yet.
LL and Ledezma I left the same because I cannot speculate yet on whether they will get those that desert PP and HCR. But it really does not matter because the second biggest slice is now the uncommitted, fishing grounds for all of them (probably from where LL gets his current bounce). Thus the current status in polls will vary in the coming weeks. Do yourself a favor, in particular if you already support HCR, do not count your eggs quite yet. The race is more volatile than what you may think, the more so if there are debates held which in this case will have quite an effect on the electorate as we have not had a real electoral debate in decades.
NOTE: let me insist again. These are not predictions, just an evaluation of what the potential vote could be. The most you can get from these is that it explains why PP, HCR, and LL are on top of polls right now. PERIOD. No ranking, no prediction, no endorsement.
UPDATE(1)) And there is one less. As expected Eduardo Fernandez just declined which opens the door for COPEI to endorse Pablo Perez in the next few hours. They would be smarter to negotiate with HCR or LL or even MCM but they are so desperate to keep Tachira that they will offer themselves to PP. The problem with negotiating with HCR is that Primero Justicia is not willing to give Miranda to Enrique Mendoza. He has a national assembly seat and should stay there.....
I expect at least either Medina or Sosa to decline today or tomorrow at the latest.
Well, neither Sosa nor Medina did but Ledezma went ahead and withdrew which speaks better for him. After all he could still have held some. Then again the need to fork some money might have decided him to withdraw and cut his posses, spending whatever influence is left to him to retain his Caracas mayoral office.
It does not change anything to my above graph, except that you may now add the sample sliver of ABP to the rainbow ones of the uncommitted. I suspect that the Ledezma voters are pissed at AD for not endorsing their man and thus we can count them off for PP.