Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez
President Hugo Chavez has a solid 13-percentage point lead over opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles in a new survey ahead of October's election - but many Venezuelans remain undecided.
The opinion poll by respected local firm Datanalisis found that 44 percent of voters favor Chavez compared to 31 percent for Democratic Unity coalition candidate Capriles, according to people who saw a private presentation, reports Reuters.
No further details were available for the poll, which was to be formally published later in the week.
Chavez, 57, who is undergoing radiation therapy in Cuba after cancer surgery, remains popular into his 14th year in power due to his strong personal connection with the poor and heavy, oil-financed spending on welfare policies.
"The bourgeois are desperate," Chavez said in a speech from Cuba, promising a convincing win in the October 7 vote against a foe he derides as the epitome of Venezuela's wealthy elite.
"The only place they are going to govern is Pluto!"
Surveys consistently show, however, that up to a third of Venezuelans are undecided, indicating there will be a fierce battle between the Chavez and Capriles camps to win them over.
State governor Capriles, 39, is widely seen as the best hope the opposition has had of unseating Chavez after years of failures via the ballot box and street protests. He is embarking on a nationwide, "house-by-house" tour intended to give him national recognition and improve his poll standing.
The major wild card is Chavez's health.
He says his recovery is going quite well. Yet rumours persist among opposition journalists and diplomats citing medical sources, that his life is in jeopardy.
At the very least, it seems Chavez will be unable to run his usual all-energy, on-the-street campaign, whereas Capriles is projecting an image of youth and zest.
"The speed of Chavez' recovery from radiotherapy treatment will be key to determine how well he can manage his political campaign," said Diego Moya-Ocampos, a Venezuela analyst for IHS Global-Insight.