Winning ugly

Not necessarily. The opposition’s only plausible path to victory on September 26th is simple: turn out your base and hope the other side’s soft-supporters stay home. And, within that game plan, "¡pa que coja mínimo!" is not necessarily the wrong message. 

It’s, in essence, the 2D playbook. It’s easy to forget that in 2007 the opposition didn’t actually get an especially large number of votes. 4.5 million turned out to vote no that year. The following year, our total dipped to 4.2 million, under pressure from splits and dissidents. And in 2009 our tally actually grew to 4.9 million – half a million more than in 2007. 

The real difference is that in 2007, chavistas just stayed home in droves. While 7.3 million people voted for Chávez in 2006, just 4.4 million turned out for the government the following year. The opposition’s 2006 tally of 4.3 million votes barely nudged up to 4.5 million in 2007. We didn’t win it: they lost it.

Why? They were angry their favorite TV channel had gotten yanked off the air. That’s why. 

Now, to my mind, the opposition’s best scenario for 26S is a repeat of 2007. It’s easy to see how that would go: these days, "transactional chavistas" have far better reason to be pissed than in 2007. Inflation, recession, crime, power cuts, water shortages: the government is running this campaign with five major strikes against it. 

Even so, tribal affinities die hard, and for a good number of even softcore chavistas, crossing over and voting for the rich white guys from Caracas is just unthinkable. The next best thing (from our point of view)? They just stay home. 

It would not be the first time that Chavista turnout collapses dramatically without leading to any corresponding rise in the opposition vote tally. It may not be the most elegant way to win, but in these circumstances, it’s the only plausible road there.

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