The government says more than $300 billion has been spent during Chavez's tenure on "social development," including health care and education. Cuban doctors provide free treatment at neighborhood clinics, and university enrollment swelled from 894,000 students in 2000 to 2.3 million in 2010.
Turning to Capriles, Chavez says Venezuelans can't risk letting his challenger win because he'll take away the programs millions depend on — something the opposition leader denies.
Then Chavez reaches for the grand finale. Only he can protect the gains, he says, because he is Venezuela itself and its people.
Judging by the reaction from Chavistas, that message has won him lasting loyalty.
"Since I haven't failed you in these 14 years, I promise I won't fail you in the next presidential term either," Chavez bellowed at one rally. "Because Chavez doesn't lie, because Chavez doesn't sell out, because Chavez is the people, because Chavez is truth, because all of you are Chavez. We all are."
Yet this year, the Chavez show is showing cracks.
The president's popularity has slipped since 2006, when he last won re-election with 63 percent of the vote. Chavez's support has remained strongest in mid-sized towns and rural areas, while voters in cities have increasingly turned against him.
Capriles, a 40-year-old former state governor, has made inroads by pledging solutions to everyday problems such as crime, blackouts, corruption and poorly run public services.
Chavez has tried to head off the complaints both by vowing to fix the problems but also by taking the high road.
"Some people may not be pleased with our government's flaws — that they didn't fix the road, that the lights didn't come back on, that the water went out, that I haven't found work, that they haven't given me my home," he said at a rally last week. "That could be true in many cases."
"But well, in any case what's at stake on Oct. 7 isn't whether or not they paved the road," Chavez said. "No! What's at stake is much more than that, comrades. The survival of the homeland is at stake."
Chavez's style draws on an eclectic mix of influences from Latin American leaders past and present such as 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar, Cuba's Fidel Castro, Peru's Gen. Juan Velasco and Argentina's Gen. Juan Domingo Peron.
Like the classic "caudillos" of Latin America, Chavez has presented himself as a saintly protector of the poor fighting the elites responsible for Latin America's gaping social divisions. Massive public aid programs and an intolerance of dissent have followed.
That message once appealed to Guarenas resident Belkis Rivas, but after voting for Chavez the last three elections, she said she no longer thinks he's capable of running the country.
"The ideas he has are good, but the team that works with him doesn't do the things he wants," said Rivas, who emerged onto the sidewalk outside her apartment after a throng of Chavez supporters had passed. She said the soaring homicide rate, among the highest in the world, shows his policies are failing. Last year, her nephew was murdered.
Rivas also complained about the economy, including Chavez's seizures of private businesses. "All those situations made me turn the page," she said, gesturing as if closing a book.
However, her twin sister Jovahana Rivas, a pharmacist, was still on board with the president, calling herself "100 percent Chavista."
Walls in their neighborhood are spray-painted with slogans such as "I'm voting for Chavez." But one Chavista who stood on a rooftop also held a sign reflecting displeasure with crooked officials in his government: "Chavez!!! We still love you, but shake off the two-faced ones."
Taking on 'Goliath'
On the streets of Caracas, baseball caps emblazoned with the yellow, blue and red of the Venezuelan flag are selling fast, hawked by vendors who carry piles of them through lines of traffic.