It´s O.K. to give them the crown. Just be sure some of the
jewels are missing.
-- Thomas Belvedere --
It is 3:00 p.m., the day after the Nicolás Maduro versus Henrique Capriles presidential election in Venezuela.
As would be expected, given the closeness of the results, Capriles is demanding a recount. I was thrilled to see how quickly the Organization of American States and the U.S. government jumped up to support Capriles´demand -- thrilled because their newly-found concern for honest elections means that they will at last -- after all these years -- fully and impartially investigate the Florida results in the U.S. presidential election of 2000. My hypothesis: the George W. Bush campaign committed fraud in northern Florida via a subertfuge known as The Long Count. The hypothesis is easily and quickly proven or disproven via standard statistical tests. (For the full discussion, see our post of December 30, 2010, "You Be the Judge". The core of the article was originally written a week after the 2000 election; the mainstream media censored it.)
P.S. Whatever you do, Dear Reader, do not hold your breath waiting for that Florida investigation.
Pending the final official count in Venezuela, the numbers and analysis that follow are provisional.
* * *
Vote for Nicolás Maduro: 7,505,338.
Henrique Capriles: 7,270,403.
Let us compare those numbers with the October 2012 presidential election.
Vote for Hugo Chávez: 8,191,132.
For Henrique Capriles: 6,591,304.
Note that the total turnout in both elections was virtually unchanged, at 14 million-plus.*
The numbers speak for themselves. Maduro lost 700,000 "soft" Chávez voters. Capriles won them over.
Or did he? See below.
The switch of 700,000 Chávez voters to Capriles was probably not direct. Our post of April 8 concluded:
"In general, voters do not cross over directly from one candidate to another; rather, they pass through the intermediate ´undecided´ and/or nonvoter phase. Many voters -- me included -- who voted for Obama in 2008 moved into the transitional category in 2012. Seven million in number, they were there for the taking.
Romney did not know how to pick them up, and lost.
We noted in our March 19 post: ´Not every candidate can win an election. But every candidate can lose one. Maduro is no exception.´ Both Maduro and Capriles, in my opinion, are making horrible blunders and missing exquisite opportunities ...
The proverbial bottom line: ... let´s look at the election results for October 2012: [55% for Chávez, 44% for Capriles.] 10% sounds like a huge margin, unbeatable, but in terms of real live voters, it is less than two million people. That means...if one million voters switch to Capriles, he wins.
[A poll] which showed Maduro leading by 8%, also showed 11% were undecided. If those numbers are correct, the future of Venezuela comes down to this question: will Capriles succeed where Romney failed?
I doubt it."
As predicted, had Capriles converted one million "soft" Chávez voters -- those who moved into or were headed toward the 11% "undecided" category -- he would have won. 700,000 was not enough.
No doubt the C.I.A. and its Washington D.C. political consultants right now are doing what we said they would do: .
"One thing is certain: the winner on Sunday will be either Maduro or Capriles. Given the losing campaigns both men are running, the winner will back into victory.
If Capriles wins, you can be sure there will be hours of fist-pumping and high-fiving by the C.I.A. and its D.C. consultants. You, Dear Reader, will not be fooled."
In other words: Thundeblahh, C.I.A.!
Sure, some of the 700,000 Chàvez voters who moved to Capriles were full-fledged conversions; early this month, Capriles wisely moved closer to the Chávez program to pick them up. However, the fact remains that the bulk of the 700,000-voter switch was the product of Maduro`s naive and clumsy campaign. Part bus driver, bird-channeler and shaman, he wandered perilously close to breaking the biggest taboo of all in the campaign world. A candidate can be a liar, a drunk, incompetent, crooked, lazy, stupid, corrupt, adulterous; he cannot be crazy.
* * *
To actually win the campaign -- that is to say, NOT back into victory -- Capriles** had to expand the arena of conflict. As we shall see, the fact that the total turnout was virtually unchanged shows he did not do it.
The first fight in boxing matches is not between the fighters but between their managers over the size of the ring. They know it can determine victory or defeat.
Obviously, the weaker fighter wants the biggest ring possible.
In Sunday´s election, Capriles was the weaker candidate.
In an election, to increase the size of the ring = raising the total turnout. That boils down to getting to the polls people who are not only favorably disposed toward your candidate but also who are proven NONvoters.
In decades of working with outmanned and under-funded campaigns against entrenched incumbents, time and again we needed a bigger arena. Here is how we achieved it.
(1) First, we identified the favorably-disposed nonvoters by name.
Techniques for identifying favorable voters are well-known, e.g., opinion polls, telephone canvassing and word of mouth.
As for identifying nonvoters, asking people on the phone if they intend to vote is unreliable; of course they are patriotic and will vote; how dare you insinuate otherwise... There is a way to identify nonvoters not by what they say but by what they do. It takes a lot of work, but it is 100% reliable and can create the longed-for election night upset. The best witnesses to its efficacy are numerous, aging ex-office holders who are condemned to wonder "what in hell hit me."
(2) The voting precinct of each and every favorably-inclined nonvoter was identified. Alphabetical lists by precinct were then prepared with their phone numbers and addresses. The lists were on paper that had two carbon copies.
(3) The night before Election Day, the lists were given to our candidate´s poll watchers. Watchers must be officially designated by the party or candidate. Watchers have a legal right to be in the precincts.***
(4) The watcher sat beside the precinct official who heard each voter announce his/her name. The watcher looked to see if the voter was on the prepared list: If so, he put a check beside the voter´s name.
(5) In our state the polls opened at 8:00 a.m. and closed at 8:00 p.m. At 11:00, a runner from our candidate´s campaign arrived at the precinct. The watcher tore off the bottom carbon copy of the list and gave it to the runner who took it to a phone bank. Calls were placed to everybody whose names were unchecked: did they need a ride, a babysitter, was there a special problem, etc.
(6) As the election continued, more names were checked off. At 2:00, a second runner arrived at the precinct. The second carbon copy of the list was removed. As before, the runner took it to the phone bank where more urgent calls were made to the unchecked names.
(7) At 5:00, the watcher took the remaining list to the phone bank. There was no reason for the watcher to remain at the precinct; at this point, any further information he/she could collect was not actionable. Time was running out. Desperate phone calls were made to people who still had not voted.
The technique serves manifold purposes. For example, if two precincts have the same number of favorable nonvoters but the turnout in one is far behind the turnout in the other, you know where to send the sound truck.
* * *
If the jacket "Nicolás no es maduro" (see prior post) had been hung on Maduro months ago, would he have lost?
There is no way to know.
What I can say from experience is that if (i) along with the jacket, (ii) the Capriles campaign had put into practice the correct strategic progression from favorable to swing voters (see post of April 8) immediately after the October 2012 election, and if (iii) the Get Out the Vote technique just outlined or its equivalent had been used, Capriles would have won by a comfortable margin. No big budget fantasy there. No outlandish gadgets, no explosive spears, no lavish sets. No frogmen, no underwater army; no silly-priced Washington election consultants. No C.I.A. either.
All of which means Maduro has some thinking to do. He is inches away from being a one-termer (assuming he finishes the allotted six years). We will know soon enough if he can grow into the presidency or if he is just another self-styled "socialist revolutionary" terrified of genuine change.
Update -- April 17. On Tuesday, Maduro ordered an arrest warrant for Capriles and his advisers. Accused of being responsible for deaths in Monday riots, they could go to prison for three to six years. Moreover, there will be no recount as demanded by Capriles. (Second Update -- April 19. As of this morning, it appears the government wisely reconsidered and a full recount will take place. Among the opposition allegations: in some precincts more votes were recorded than there were registered voters. For the solution to the ghost voter magic trick, see our post of February 13, 2013: "Election Fraud 101: Watch Out, Ecuador.")
Our question: did the people of Venezuela elect a president or a bus driver? A Ralph Kramden without Jackie Gleason? Indeed, for insight, you might start not with media instant experts, with government reports or university professors, but with comedian Jackie Gleason. His writers didn´t name his bus driver character Kramden -- Cram them? -- for nothing.
No comment is necessary on the arrest warrants for Capriles. As for recounts, I have always supported them (ditto holding public referenda), assuming the margin is close and the losing candidate requests one. In fact, the best system is to have legally required recounts if the margin of victory is under a certain percentage (for a review of statutes in different states requiring automatic recounts, click here.) That way, to have or not have a recount is not dependent on the whim of some guy sitting in front of a flag.
I spent four months living with a colonel and his family in Bogotá. 95% of the family friends were military officers. I can assure you that right now Venezuelan army chiefs are adjusting their hats.
Soming soon. The Boston Marathon Terrorists.
*The circulation of the voter pool is a vital phenomenon. Contrary to Washington election consultants who know nothing about it, we always sounded the pool in depth for our candidate clients.
The circulation: some voters die, move away, don´t vote, etc. They are replaced by people who become old enough to vote, who become citizens, etc. I can say from experience that in the six month period separating the two Venezuelan presidential elections, circulation in the pool was minimal. We are looking overwhelmingly at the same voters in both elections. Thus, conversions and disenchantments in the existing voter pool were the order of the day.
**Make no mistake: I do not support Capriles. He represents a failed economic model, neoconservativism, which held sway under the Bush and Reagan Administrations. The neocons -- remember Paul Wolfowitz? -- played a major role in creating and reinforcing the tendency this blog vigorously opposes: rich richer, poor poorer, middle class smaller.
***Not all nations allow watchers.