The outlines of a three horse race…

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The three main opposition pre-candidates to challenge Hugo Chavez in December’s election held a press conference today and vowed that only one of them will be on the ballot against Chavez. They did not say how they intend to decide which of them gets to challenge Chavez, leaving open the possibility of a primary or a backroom deal.

It was a slightly strange situation, given that Rosales hasn’t officially announced his bid yet, but it sure looks like the race for the oppo nomination is turning into a three-way race between these guys. Their pledge that only one of them will face Chavez in December must count as a rare instance of grown-up behavior in the Opposition leadership, and their pragmatism about methods also strikes me as uncommonly far-sighted.

All of this is good news, but before striking off in some hyperventilatory spree of misplaced euphoria, it’s important to keep the fundamentals in context:

The challenges an eventual candidate will have to face are formidable. Chavez will enjoy an obscene funding advantage – not just in terms of paying for the actual campaign, but also through his ability to manipulate the flow of petrodollars to his political clientele for political impact. An asymetrical campaign, is what Teodoro calls it.

Plus Chavez is still personally popular, and GQR reports that 43% of poll respondents think the country is on the right track against just 29% who think it’s on the wrong track. And that’s without even mentioning everyone’s favorite hope-crushing three-letter acronym…

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