This is a rhetorical question: even the once neutral to favorable pollsters historically putting chavismo even or ahead are now giving the opposition a two digit lead. And yet things are not that simple.
I am not talking here of the obvious: electoral cheating that has taken this time around a many splendored scope. This December election will be one for the annals of deceit, treachery and plain banditry.
Yet it is very difficult to imagine a scenario where chavismo could get back to trailing the opposition no more than 5% which is enough for them to get a one seat advantage. I have already discussed that a "victory" for the opposition is a 3/5 majority. Nothing less will be good enough to force the country into a fairly negotiated political transition. Actually I am starting to think that a 2/3 parliamentary majority is what the opposition needs to win. Equally for the regime at this point a "victory" is 45% of the vote cast. Anything less will not do as no "revolution" can retain a semblance of credibility with such poor result in vote. Never mind that the military will start having doubts about supporting a plebiscite based regime that cannot even get 40+% of the vote.
This being said, the point of this blog entry is to think about whether the opposition can indeed get a 2 digit leaded, that is 10%+ margin over chavismo. No matter what the polls say it is hard to guess. True, a larger vote count seems now assured, but the margin will be volatile for many reasons.
First, many folks who have voted for Chavez consistently for over a decade will have a hard time to admit that they were wrong even if their heads are now sun baked through food scarcity lines. I, for one, cannot imagine many chavistas hoping happily from chavismo to opposition without an "abstention" election in between. That "abstain first and then vote oppo next" has been the pattern in the slow electoral growth of the opposition. But going from a documented trend to an hypothetical landslide.....
From this first observation you can understand that the second observation will be about the emotional content of the vote. True, the natives are restless but it is my belief that the bulk of chavista "desertion" will be more through abstention than actual switching. This because many of them will decide for real what to do in the very last days of the campaign and no poll can see that. True, such last minute decisions will not affect the outcome but could at the last minute carve out 2, 3 or 4 points of the opposition advantage. For a 3/5 majority these few points are crucial.
But this could backfire badly for chavismo too, my third observation. Chavismo will try its bring in the vote machinery. But if it pushes too hard, if it forces too much of its voters it could create a resentment reaction turning a lot of folks into former voters.
A fourth observation is how many voters the opposition lost to emigration. A million? A million and a half? Another key factor to reach the fabled 3/5.
In short as we reach the last stretch of the campaign chavismo is left to rely on Chavez love and the effectiveness of its bring in the vote now that it has very little to pay for it. As for the opposition, deprived of media and campaign money it has to rely on people being upset enough to give it the crucial 3/5.
As you can guess yourself, an election based on emotions is hardy quantifiable in advance. As of today anything is possible, from a small opposition victory to a landslide. But all decided in the very last week.