Gradually, Hugo Chavez is getting his wings clipped:

Venezuela’s growing opposition and President Hugo Chavez’s left-wing party shared the spoils from weekend elections as they jostled for political momentum in the OPEC nation on Monday.

The multi-party opposition eroded Chavez’s dominance of regional politics, winning six top posts that govern over almost half of the population, although his Socialist Party took a clear majority of state races.

The results make more challenging Chavez’s goal of changing the law to run for reelection in 2012. The opposition defeated that move in a referendum vote last year and gained some extra ground on Sunday.

In power for almost a decade, the popular anti-U.S. president won 17 of 22 states, but the opposition held onto the two states it won at the last regional elections four years ago, picked up three more and won the powerful mayoralty of the capital Caracas.

Opposition candidates were helped by widespread voter complaints the government has done too little to control some of the world’s worst murder rates and Latin America’s highest inflation rate.

Look for Chavez to try anew to expand his power by some audacious means or other. But if that fails, he may well fall back. I suppose that it is possible that he may try for some kind of rapprochement with the United States which, if successful, will likely be lauded by a rapturous press corps as being the doing of Barack Obama. It should be remembered, however, that the diminution in Chavez’s power at home will do more to govern his actions as a political figure than will the identity of the President of the United States.