I am going to vote for Henrique Capriles on February 12th, and I am asking you to do the same.
This will come as no surprise to frequent readers, but I would like to lay out my reasoning explicitly so, hopefully, you’ll come to the same conclusion.
1) He is our best candidate against Chávez. These are not just conjectures. It’s not a subjective appreciation. Polls show that Capriles’ position in a head-to-head against Chávez is better than that of any other candidate.
This trend has not changed in the last few months. With only a few weeks to go, it seems like Capriles is our best bet for October’s election.
2) He is the most experienced of the serious candidates. Compared to Leopoldo, Pablo Perez, and Maria Corina, Henrique is by far the most experienced. With 13 years in both legislative and executive office, Capriles was first elected before Chávez was.
But it’s not just the amount of experience, but the kind of experience he has.
Pablo Pérez took over the governorship of Zulia, a state that his party has governed for a long time, from his political mentor. Leopoldo López governed Chacao, not exactly a hotbed of revolutionary fervor, and even that was a few years go. Maria Corina Machado has barely any public experience at all.
Despite being the youngest of the bunch, Capriles has amassed an impressive résumé: congressman, mayor, and then beating Chávez’s dauphin in the race to run the crucial Miranda State.
Let’s remember that when Capriles took over the governorship of Miranda from Diosdado Cabello, he had to deal with an entrenched PSUV bureaucracy, negotiate the numerous roadblocks thrown his way, and untangle the disaster he inherited, all the while losing competencies one after the other.
In those adverse conditions, he’s run a government that puts his anti-polarization rhetoric to work day after day, building bridges and trust with his chavista constituents on his way to becoming one of the most popular governors in the country.
Capriles is the only candidate who could go to a Consejo Comunal in Caucagüita and slowly grind down their resistance until they start to work together with him. Neither Leopoldo, nor Maria Corina, nor Pablo have proven they can do that.
This is important because dealing with the tangled legacy of chavista mismanagement constructively will be one of the biggest challenges any new President will face. Capriles has shown he knows how to do this, and do it well.
3) He has been the best campaigner. Capriles understands better than any of his competitors that campaigning is as much about what you don’t say as it is about what you say. His message discipline has been nothing short of remarkable throughout.
True, his delivery is not the most engaging. Yes, he frowns and scowls a lot. But if you ask anyone on the street a simple summary of what Capriles’ campaign is all about, they will be able to tell you.
That doesn’t happen by chance. It happens when you know yourself, know your message, know what you’re about, and set out to communicate it relentlessly. His discipline is nothing short of inspiring.
Most importantly, his strategy in this primary has been pretty close to impeccable. Faced with a big advantage at the start, he is running a general-election campaign. Understanding how difficult it is to cement a message in Venezuela’s red, very red airwaves, he barely talks about the opposition, focusing instead on a message of unity and results. It’s not a coincidence he’s so far ahead in the lead: Capriles gets strategic messaging, his competitors don’t.
4) He has forged smart alliances. Coming into this campaign, there was a chance that Capriles would be framed as a rabid right-winger. That hasn’t happened, in part because of Capriles’ smart endorsement seeking.
He didn’t actively pursue the adecos, or the copeyanos, or Proyecto Venezuela. Instead, he focused on two key players, both of them chavistas until quite recently: Ismael García and his Podemos party, and Henri Falcón, the popular governor of Lara.
Those alliances reinforce Capriles’ message of unity – a unity not just within the traditional opposition, but one that reaches out into the swelling ranks of disaffected former chavistas. If people like Ismael García and Henri Falcon – men who worked for Chavez tirelessly for 9 or 10 of the last 12 years – can trust him, how right-wing can he really be?
The ability to forge smart alliances is crucial going into the post-February 12th world, when the MUD and the Capriles campaign (if he wins) begin a complicated merger process.
5) He needs to win big. This last one is kind of tautological, but bear with me.
You should consider voting for Capriles even if you don’t think he’s the best candidate for the job, simply because at this point, he’s very likely to win. And given that he’s likely to win, we are much better off if he wins big.
A small victory for Capriles (say, a 35-30-25 scenario) would send a mixed signal going forward, empowering the losers and making the formation of the necessary alliances more difficult. A strong win would leave him much better placed to rally the base, win over the middle ground and win in October.
So if you’re still on the fence, I say vote smart: support the front-runner so our candidate has the strong mandate and undoubted legitimacy he’ll need take the fight to Chávez this fall.
There you have it: he is the best chance we’ve got, he has the experience, he campaigns well, he knows how to forge smart alliances, and he needs to win big. On February 12th, I’m voting for Henrique Capriles.