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He said he expects personal attacks from Mr. Chavez to increase, and suggested that he, too, might become more confrontational in response. So far, Mr. Capriles has largely avoided direct or personal barbs.

“If they want me to get into the ring, I’ll get into the ring,” he said.

Mr. Capriles said he would welcome a televised debate. Mr. Chavez didn’t immediately respond to that challenge.

The leftist president said before the primary that all of his rivals represent the interests of the rich and the U.S. government.

Mr. Chavez already has kicked his campaign machinery into gear. He has increased spending by launching new social programs that offer cash benefits for the poor and invested heavily in new railways, public housing and cable car systems in Venezuela’s hillside slums.

As the election nears, he will inaugurate other big-ticket projects that grab attention, including the planned launch of Venezuela’s second Chinese-made satellite shortly before the October vote.

Mr. Capriles might not be able to compete with Mr. Chavez’s spending, nor with his ability to take over the airwaves of all TV and radio stations when he deems appropriate.

But Mr. Capriles can count on ample campaign funding from anti-Chavez donors, as well as high visibility in opposition-aligned media, including the television channel Globovision, private radio stations and newspapers.

Mr. Chavez has warned voters that if they don’t re-elect him, his social programs — called “missions” — would vanish. That threat, though disputed by Mr. Capriles, could have an influence on some in the run-up to the vote.

Many working-class Venezuelans say they still support Mr. Chavez and his socialist-inspired program, even as some “Chavistas” openly complain of inefficiency and corruption within his government.

“There are good things and bad things because nobody’s perfect, but … he’s helped poor people a lot,” said Heidi Lopez, a 33-year-old who raves about the discounted food at government-run markets and plans to vote for Mr. Chavez again.

Some of Mr. Capriles‘ supporters say they think he has a good chance of winning over Venezuelans who otherwise might lean pro-Chavez because he has taken a largely non-confrontational approach while promising solutions to problems, including 26-percent inflation and one of the highest homicide rates in Latin America.

Diego Prada, a 23-year-old marketing manager, said Mr. Capriles‘ inclusive approach resonates among many.

“People are tired of so much confrontation,” Mr. Prada said.