Traditionally in presidential campaigns, vice presidential candidates have played a minor role and rarely become a decisive factor in the elections, because voters cast their vote for the person leading the ticket, not the running mate.
However, the selection of running mates has attracted more public attention in recent years and more pressure is now on presidential nominees to find a running mate who fits the role, if not a great choice who would serve as a nice surprise for voters.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was under such pressure in her months-long search for a suitable running mate. On Friday, she finally ended speculation by announcing her choice: DPP Secretary-General Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全).
As an emerging star in the DPP who lost the Greater Taichung mayoral election last year to Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) by a thin margin, Su should be a good choice for the scholarly Tsai, with his strong support base in central Taiwan and familiarity with grassroots politics.
Nonetheless, the selection of Su came as no surprise after former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) announced that he had turned down Tsai’s offer, following rejections from central bank Governor Peng Fai-nan (彭淮南) and several non-DPP members.
Because the 54-year-old Pingtung native was not Tsai’s first choice and because of her slow start in the game — almost three months behind her Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) counterpart, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who chose Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) as his running mate — Tsai lost an opportunity to create momentum for her campaign.
However, Ma did no better in boosting his campaign’s momentum with his selection of Wu. Unlike the presidential election in 2008, in which rumors about Ma’s running mate ran wild before he announced his choice of Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), there were no real challengers to Wu.
The selection of 63-year-old Wu, a veteran and familiar face in politics, has little to offer voters other than a sharp reminder of the lack of talent in the ranks of the KMT.
That Ma’s campaign did not gain much from Tsai’s slow selection of her running mate is largely due to People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), whose actions have become a thorny issue for Ma and the KMT.
Soong, who pledged to run for the presidency if he collected 1 million signatures on a petition, is scheduled to announce his running mate later this month. Whether a Soong candidacy would affect the Ma-Wu ticket will be something to watch, with little more than 100 days left before the Jan. 14 election.
Following the confirmation of the Tsai-Su ticket, the focus of the presidential campaign should return to the campaign platforms the candidates present. Tsai unveiled the DPP’s 10-year guidelines last month. Ma will also present his “golden 10-year policies” this month.
Voters should closely examine these policy platforms, because the two camps have promised to fight a positive campaign and attract voters with solid policies.