a silly poll, but by DATOS, that lifted a little bit my heavy heart. After all it was to be expected that the poor choice of chavista candidates and its ever reluctance to talk issues preferring to go towards a new "constituyente" had to exact a toll on chavismo. I thus went back to an October 23 speculation/gut feeling table to which I added the Datos polls and a poll for Aragua, then I came up with a new gut feeling. Explanations follow.
But before we survey let's remember that the opposition is going with a great handicap: the recent reelection of Chavez which in theory should benefit his side. To this we must add the debilitating settling of scores for the defeat and the knowledge that chavismo has a more powerful electoral machinery than we suspected it had. In this regard, any prediction for December 16 is hazardous and whatever you read below (or elsewhere for that matter) is equal parts reality and wishful thinking.
Let's start with the red states October 23, those that there is no doubt will go for Chavez though we are eagerly waiting to see if he repeats his October % there. Note: order of states is from the one with the most abstention on October 7 to the one with the least abstention, Merida.
The only one of the red states that could offer a surprise is Falcon as maybe the paradoxical favorable Amuay effect for Chavez may finally wane some and they remember that the only thing that makes the governor tenure noteworthy is her enhanced boobs. There is also a division inside chavismo for Apure but I do not see it going back to Lippa who may have won the Apure primary but that did not wash away the bad feeling he left there from his tenure 8 years ago. Datos and I agree on these states and they are for Chavez in my current perception.
Then we move on to the leaning Chavez states where I have disagreements with Datos and where the new poll of Aragua also shows some disagreement.
Sucre: Datos give it to Acuña but I am not sure. First, there is a "small" division inside chavismo. if it is not big enough to be a threat by itself it remains that the opposition candidate is issued from Voluntad Popular and to have won in Sucre he must have been working really hard. Thus I still keep that state leaning Chavez but there is a real possibility for an opposition pick up.
Amazonas: I gave it leaning Chavez but Datos is making me review this one. After all the sitting governor has been active and the PPT there did not go back to Chavez. Still, I am not calling it for the opposition.
Carabobo: I was putting it leaning for Chavez but Datos is putting it for the opposition. Indeed the candidate chosen by Chavez is military coupster Ameliach and he is liveless, listless In spite of everything negative about Salas Feo and in spite of stuff I hear from Carabobo as a tough race I am reviewing as leaning opposition now.
Monagas: considering that Chavez managed to carry Monagas in spite of trying to poison half of its people, it has got to remain in the leaning Chavez column in spite of a terrible candidate, a cynical and awful woman form a mafia family form next door Delta Amacuro. But a last minute agreement between the divided opposition does not discard a remote victory at this point.
Aragua: this is looking like to be the bright light on election night for the opposition. This state should be chavista by any calculation and any measure but for the last 4 years chavismo has been piling it up high and deep. First, 4 years ago sending Isea from corrupt fiances to rule over Aragua was a mistake as the guy proved to be able only to manage funds for ill uses. The vox populi was so strong that even Chavez could not run his protege once again and instead send his interior minister, El Aissami. Not only the guy has been a failure in his job to try to improve security in Venezuela, but he went to Aragua as a second thought, once he realized that his first mission in Tachira was doomed. In other words, Aragüeños can feel quite justified in being taken for granted and pissed off at it. As a result the Primero Justicia primary winner, Richard Mardo is set to provide an amazing upset if he manages it. But then again it is a big military state and a big machinery one so we need to wait and hope for El Aissami to keep sticking his foot in mouth so often that he can only lose.
Now let's review those where there is a real opposition possibility if chavismo abstains, if the opposition does not, if it does not screw up, if, if, and more if....
Miranda: Capriles return hat trick seems to be working although chavismo is reserving its full attack trying to destroy his political future there. The one thing that seems to be working is that the Jaua campaign rings phonier than it needs to be. After all Mirandinos can wonder how come if Jaua cares so much about Miranda he did not send some love while he was vice president of the country. Also, with little Capriles did a lot more than former Diosdado governor who had a lot. It has been 4 years and even in a very forgetful country 4 years is not enough to erase it all. However, if Miranda is lost by less than 30,000 votes it will be the fault of Caraqueños going off on their vacations and not staying to vote. You have been warned.
Nueva Esparta: being there for a week rest I have spoken already with 4 taxi drivers. One says Morel will win, 3 say it is tough. None of them was chavista. In Nueva Esparta taxi drivers know better than be chavista. Still, I am putting it leaning Chavez because it is a state they need badly to set up a better drug traffic system. They are holding nothing here.
Zulia: I still cannot believe chavismo could pick it up, but I cannot be as confident as Datos. For me the loss of Zulia would be the major blow tot he opposition, even bigger than the loss of Miranda.
Merida: the infighting within chavismo is affecting paradoxically the opposition campaign which has gone from sure winner to maybe. People seem more interested in sorting the inner chavismo turmoil than just tossing it all out.....
Tachira: in danger earlier because of an opposition division it seem that the seriousness of the Andino is going to preserve Tachira for our side. Vielma Mora dispatched there is just too much of a new comer in spite of having been born there. Besides if a state has been battered by chavismo it is Tachira.
Lara: no trouble there for me. The ex governor Reyes Reyes trying to make a come back will fail because he just was too lousy of a governor. Chavez may have carried that state but his advantage is not enough in front of a popular governor and an unpopular "challenger".
Bolivar: a mix of a bad governor, a not particularly good opposition candidate and corrupt trade unions makes this state a leaning opposition but barely in my book.
This being said, AGAIN, these are particularly difficult elections to assess. Those are not real predictions, just a mix of wishful thinking and reality check. However there is one thing that needs to be written: what the results would mean. Considering that chavismo understands that the 55% of Chavez was rather weak for what they need to achieve, namely changing the Constitution they are counting on a smashing victory on December 16 to crate and unstoppable momentum. The question is thus: what does the opposition needs to achieve to stop that momentum?
Disaster: the opposition loses Carabobo and either Zulia or Miranda and only manages Tachira, Lara and a couple more of states. This would be disaster and the road will be open for Chavez. We can only wish his speedy death to save the country from its utter destruction.
Holding the line barely: the opposition needs to retain AT LEAST Tachira, 2 out of Carabobo, Zulia and Miranda, and another morsel such as Lara or Anzoategui or Bolivar and there is some material to work with. But it would confirm Chavez "popularity" and it would be very difficult to stop him.
A challenger is born: if the opposition manages to retain Carabobo, Tachira, Lara, Miranda and Zulia it will preside over the majority of the people of the country. Failure to win anything else and even the loss of Nueva Esparta do not detract from that. A constitutional change would be difficult for chavismo and thus the battle will be sent back to the national Assembly with possible recall elections and what not. Chavez would be forced to go to municipal elections, something he could avoid in the previous two scenarios.
Chavez is, chavismo is not: that is, Chavez has a pull but his machinery only works when he is on the ballot himself. To prove this the opposition needs to retain Carabobo, Tachira, Lara, Miranda and Zulia but it also needs to gain Merida, and either Anzoategui or Bolivar. If in addition it retains Nueva Esparta and manages to add win both Anzoategui and Bolivar then we can almost start talking of an annulment of October 7 result.
Opposition outright victory: and to get all that what you need is to retain Miranda, Zulia, Carabobo and Lara and just add Aragua. That way there would be a sweep of the Caracas Maracaibo corridor and thus a tremendous psychological victory for the opposition.
The conclusion here is that what matters is not necessarily the number of states won, their quality matters a lot. The opposition may lose Nueva Esparta, fail to win Anzoategui, Merida and Bolivar, but picking up Aragua nicely compensates for that. But if in addition of picking up Aragua the opposition also picked up Bolivar and Merida....... We can dream, no?