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Deputy PM fires up the Socialist race

Rubalcaba to travel across Spain to meet with party base members

In his first stump as Socialist candidate in next year's election race, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba will hit the campaign trail this week in a bid to win support among regional leaders and to find out what party members expect from their organization.

Rubalcaba, who was officially backed on Saturday by the Socialist federal committee, has come out as the sole candidate for the party's July 2 primary after Defense Minister Carme Chacón backed out of the race on Thursday.

The deputy prime minister will travel to Seville on Wednesday where he will hold a series of meetings with the party's membership to answer a lot of unanswered questions about how he emerged the winner after Chacón's sudden withdrawal, and after calls were made for a congress to be held to select the successor to Prime MinisterJosé Luis Rodríguez Zapatero instead of a primary.

The defense minister had complained that holding a congress would have hurt her chances of winning.

A source close to Chacón said that she was "more angry than emotional" the day she withdrew. "It was that or early elections," said the source.