The AP team has a good article on tomorrow’s regional elections and potential ramifications for a transition. In it I am said to expect that “whomever the Chavistas choose as their candidate to win any presidential election that would be called if Chavez, who is due to be inaugurated Jan. 10, died in the first four years of his six-year term.” I would like to clarify my position.

Whether I was misunderstood or misstated my position is really besides the point–that’s the nature of telephone interviews (actually I suspect it had to do with editing). But here is what I really think. Whomever the PSUV forwards as their candidate–Maduro, Cabello or someone else in the inner circle–would likely win a new presidential election held in the coming months. Chávez’s popularity is high and so are other important indicators such as trust, personal optimism, and evaluation of the country’s direction.

But there are economic troubles looming in 2013 with foreign exchange disequilibriums and a large fiscal debt that need to be addressed. What is more, any move towards implementing the communal state is likely to be fractious and expend some of Chávez’s political capital. So while in the short term any pro-government presidential candidate would undoubtedly fare well, that would not necessarily be the case six months or two years from now.

[Update: Many thanks to Frank Bajak who quickly had the story corrected.]