You don't have to look far, Shifter said, to see an example of an opposition candidate who took a different approach.
After official results indicated he narrowly lost to Felipe Calderon in Mexico's 2006 presidential election, leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador accused authorities of fraud and never conceded.
In the years that followed, Lopez Obrador referred to himself as "the legitimate president of Mexico" and continued campaigning around the country.
His supporters protested nationwide. In Mexico City, they staged sit-ins and blockades.
Memories of the upheaval stuck with many Mexicans. This year, when Lopez Obrador was once again a candidate, it didn't play well at the polls, Shifter said.
"It didn't really help his image very much nationally. I think he may have done a lot better this time. I don't know whether he would have won," Shifter said, "but I think people remembered the way he acted in 2006, and that was a real liability for him."
This year, election officials have repeatedly ruled that Enrique Pena Nieto won July's presidential vote. Lopez Obrador has not conceded.
Looking toward the future
That's not the norm, Kellerman said.
"The democratic tradition is to concede defeat graciously, so that whatever your future ... you are seen as a grown-up person who can accept this in the gracious spirit of an adult democracy," she said.
In the United States, for example, candidates often bounce back after an election loss, she said.
"We have a real tradition of people who've been defeated once coming back to win the next time over," she said, noting that Capriles could have a similar comeback in mind.
Kellerman, who analyzes global leadership trends on her blog, "Lame Leaders/Fed Up Followers," described Chavez as a "bully" and said a nation's people tire of such tactics over time.
"Eventually, the temper of the times is such that it's moving toward relatively greater levels of democracy and civility," Kellerman said, "and relatively lower levels of autocracy and bullying."
Shifter said Capriles' post-election comments struck a "perfect pitch." Venezuela's political landscape will inevitably change at some point, he said.
"Chavez is not going to last forever, and the concern is always that given the tremendous polarization in the country, and tremendous rancor, there's always the potential you can't rule out for some instability and some violence," he said. "The discourse that Capriles used during the campaign, but especially after he lost, is very helpful to reduce those tensions and to point to a path of reconciliation, which is what the country will need to heal."
Even with the election results in, political uncertainty remains in Venezuela, with questions about Chavez's health lingering.
Over the past year, the 58-year-old leader has been visibly weakened by cancer surgeries and treatment. He has kept secret the kind of cancer he has and his prognosis.
In May, speculation intensified over who would succeed Chavez when he named 10 people to the highest circle of his advisers. But in July, he said he was cancer free. Since Sunday's vote, he has pledged to push forward with his socialist reforms in his next six-year term and "be a better president every day."
That hasn't stopped speculation that the situation could be more dire than the president lets on.
"Who knows how long it will be before the next presidential election, given the president's current health?" Johnson said.
No matter when the next election is, Johnson said that "going forward, it remains to be seen" whether Capriles will be able to win more support and maintain the opposition's momentum.
On Thursday, CNN affiliate Globovision reported that the opposition candidate filed paperwork to run in December's election for governor in the state of Miranda -- a post he held until February, when he resigned to run for president.
He will face former Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua, who has been a key member of Chavez's inner circle.