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For Vladimir Putin, winning Russia's presidency may be the easy part

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Opposition leaders say the mood of the country is hard to gauge, but there is a strong sense of momentum swinging against Putin. 

"In previous elections, Putin's ratings were always high enough to be sure he would win honestly. If there was fraud in the past – and I think there was – no one seriously claimed that it changed the basic outcome. Now, the picture is very different," says Ilya Ponomaryov, a Duma deputy with the Just Russia party and a leader of the rallies against electoral fraud. 

"There is great doubt whether Putin can win a fair victory this time. Some polls show his real support is down to 35 percent or less. He will need major falsifications to pull it off, and the machine is already working toward that end. So, even if he wins, Putin is on a collision course with the public, whose resentment of being manipulated by the system is rising with each day," he says. 

Anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, who is widely regarded as a presidential contender for the post-Putin era, says that many opposition leaders will simply refuse to recognize Putin's expected victory.

"We are quite clear that on March 5, Putin will declare himself the president of Russia. In fact, he would call himself a czar or an emperor," Navalny said today in an interview with Margaret Warner of PBS, to be broadcast on Newshour. "We will not accept this and we will continue to demand political reforms, new parliamentary elections within a year, and new presidential elections within two years." 

Challengers who don't pose much challenge

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