With the decision today by Caracas’ Metropolitan Mayor Antonio Ledezma to withdraw from the race, the number of viable opposition candidates has been reduced to a very manageable and desirable number. Not that I found Ledezma competitive, but had AD backed him, he would have had a potential number of votes come February that gave him a chance of not being last. The rest, Eduardo Fernandez and the former Supreme Court Justice that I never want to remember her name don’t count in my book.
I have nothing against many people running, but I think that some of the candidates were a little unrealistic in their prospects, you can’t withdraw from Venezuelan politics for twenty years, particularly these twenty years and expect to have a chance. Others may be in the race because they think maybe next time they have a chance, like Maria Corina Machado. Or they want to make a point like Diego Arria. But in my mind, there are only three and a half candidates left, whereby I am giving Ms. Machado a half, only because I think that that Pablo Perez’ candidacy may flounder with AD’s backing and she may get quite close to him.
Without further ado, here are the significant candidates left in the race, in the order of my current perception of where they stand:
Henrique Capriles Radonski: HCR has become the clear front runner. So far he has timed his movements well, picked his spots and used a fairly non-confrontational strategy of setting his own agenda to become the clear front runner according to most polls. Up to very recently, HCR would not even mention Chavez by name, he has changed that strategy recently. HCR has not been too specific other than preaching unity, a Government for all and hard work. He has attracted very important backings from Causa R, PPT and some unions, becoming a de facto candidate of the left wing of the opposition, save for Bandera Roja. As most candidates he has been short on specifics, which is all right with me, except that he was very specific about currency controls, a subject that I feel very strongly about. HCR has a strong management background, he was a Deputy of the National Assembly in 1998, Mayor of the complex municipality of Baruta and now Governor of the most complex state in Venezuela: Miranda.
I like his organization, his soft message so far, his veiled messages to Chavismo telling them he will not be partisan and how he has managed to position himself ahead so far, despite not being the terribly charismatic (He should smile more often)
I worry that he may have peaked too early and he may not generate the passion that a race against a recovered (if it happens) Chavez would require. But right now it is his race to lose.
Leopoldo Lopez: His campaign has been delayed by the uncertainty as to whether he should run or not, by the former mayor of Chacao got a green light and that should change his position in the polls as well as in his ability to raise funds for the primary. LL is a terrific campaigner and very charismatic, which should help in a National race. As with the other candidates his message has been one of a better Venezuela with some specifics, particularly on oil (He wants to increase production). He has built a very impressive national network and has been going around Venezuela thinking long term. He probably has the largest national organization at the grassroots levels.
I like his long term thinking and how he stuck to the CIDH suit to be allowed to be a candidate. He is a great campaigner and generates passion (either way). He is a good listener and seeks out opinions (Disclaimer: he is the only candidate to have contacted the Devil for opinions up to now. And more than once). I think he has what it takes to win and the smarts to run a good Government.
Some people perceive him as being too individualistic and too much of a caudillo in a country of caudillos. Chacao is a small municipality with lots of resources, but it was well run. The fact that he is still formally banned from taking office may hold off many voters, but if he wins, I have not doubt he will be able to be sworn in.
Pablo Perez: The Governor of Zulia is young, articulate and managed to get the endorsement of AD that I think may work against him at this stage, as people are wary of the old political parties. He also promotes unity, his track record as Governor and hard work. He comes across well, but like HCR is not charismatic, may even be boring. I don’t think the historical fact that a maracucho has never been President matters. What matters is that he is not as well know nationally as Capriles or Lopez and the winner is going to have to get lots of votes outside the large states, where PP is not well known.
Perez has the advantage of being the only major candidate that has popular roots, can not be accused of being an oligarch. He comes across well and has support and some organization to project nationally.
He lacks charisma, not a great speaker and in the end his experience is limited. His adeco past and new endorsement may come to haunt him
Maria Corina Machado: I was going to leave MCM out of my post, but her persistence and my feeling that PP could melt, convinced me that it would be unfair. MCM has little managerial experience but has been quite an eloquent and articulate speaker as a Deputy of the National Assembly. While I don’t particularly like her “Capitalismo Popular” slogan, I understand such labels can be quite useful and I like what they stand for.
She has stuck to her guns so far, despite her imperceptible ratings in the polls. She has a political posture, which is unique and more than can be said about most candidates.
Her drawback is that she has no political structure, she is too oligarchic, not well know nationally and I dont think she is electable. Venezuelans clearly want “someone like you” and she ain’t it.
My preference at this time is for LL, I think he is electable and will seek out a good team. However, I also think HCR will be hard to unseat from the lead. The race is his to lose.
I will vote for the winner of the primary on October 7th. 2012 in any case.