Among the contenders are Congresswoman María Corina Machado, former United Nations Ambassador Diego Arria, and Lara Gov. Henry Falcón, he said.
“The opposition has a deep bench of great candidates,” Dallen said.
Chávez’s PSUV party controls 15 out of the 23 governors’ posts and has vowed to sweep the election. Most analysts expect the PSUV to expand its lead on the back of October’s win and as the leadership has been urging voters to hit the polls as a sign of support for Chávez.
But the vote will also be a test to see how well the administration’s get-out-the-vote machine works when Chávez is not on the ticket, wrote the Eurasia Group, a New York-based consulting firm.
“This will be especially important to determining Maduro’s electoral chances in a likely future election,” the organization wrote.
But with Chávez’s health changing on a daily basis (just a few weeks ago he was still saying that he was completely cured of the cancer) it may be too soon to tell how it will shake out.
“I think the illness has taken everyone by surprise, both the opposition and the government and they haven’t really had time to react,” Pineda said.
While Maduro has Chávez’s blessing and is seen to have the support of the Castro brothers in Havana, many expect National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, who is thought to have the backing of the military and the PSUV’s business elite, to make a move for the presidency, Pineda said.
Pineda, who wrote a book about the president’s health called The Black Swan: Chávez’s Cancer and the Illness of Messianic Leaders, said that when charismatic leaders like Chávez step down, crippling infighting often breaks out.
“Usually, when a messianic leader disappears, they take their politics with them,” Pineda said.
With the presidency seemingly up for grabs again, analysts said they will be looking at national voting numbers more than individual governors’ races.
The opposition “need to focus on the number of votes and how they are split among the opposition and Chavistas,” Dallen said. “Everything else doesn’t really matter.”