While Chavez still maintains a lead in average poll numbers, the fiercely anti-Bolivarian Tal Cual echoed the opposition rally cry as it touted the "technical tie" reported by generally well-regarded pollsters Consultores21 and Varianzas that is "feeding the hope" of a Capriles victory. After the enthusiasm of their February primary turned to the despair of a sluggish campaign in early summer, the perception that Capriles' relatively under-the-radar, house-to-house strategy [see our 30 May analysis, "Henrique Capriles and the Quiet Campaign"] was showing results at just the right time has led to a new wave of optimism from both traditional and social media sources among the opposition. The second image above, from the YV Polis blog, draws from the most widely-used polling firms to depict this statistical surge in the last three months vis-à-vis the “stagnation” of Chavez's support in the mid-40s. The blog reflects the opposition's hope in Chavez's failure to crack the 50 percent barrier. Chavez's detractors even saw potential defeat in a new light, with El Nacional suggesting that any progress in the final tally would be evidence of an inexorable demographic shift underway in Venezuela. Likewise, Tal Cual argued that even just forcing Chavez to sweat out a tight race would give Capriles more opportunities to "reinforce his leadership" and corner the president into engaging an opposition "that he [currently] ignores even though it has increased its presence in essential political spaces."
In response, Chavez has turned to its control of the nearly all-encompassing state media, unleashing a wave of sensational headlines with a noticeable increase (even for his administration) in hyperbole and appeals to emotion. Far removed from the arrogance of his mid-summer leave, when flagship daily Correo del Orinoco's top headline crowed "Chavez leads Capriles by 27.3 percent," the same outlet's top billing on 3 October featured an atypically nervous-sounding Chavez who "promised to be a better president than I have been." An article from El Nacional entitled, “Capriles monopolized the streets, Chavez the screen,” broke down the two distinct campaigns strategies. Citing Chavez’s health factor, the piece noted the president's campaign trips outside the city had dropped from 40 in 2006 to 28 in 2012, and highlighted his use of presidential addresses to coopt and “interrupt the transmission” of Capriles events and speeches--effectively bullying his rival off the airwaves--“on at least eight occasions.” This shift in rhetoric and tactics over the past three months led El Nacional to conclude "Capriles has achieved what appeared impossible, he has put Hugo Chavez on the defensive."