The unorthodox presidential campaign run by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) does not bother her campaign officials, though several local politicians have expressed concern.
Tsai, the first female presidential candidate in Taiwan’s history, has been described by many as an “unorthodox candidate” because of her moderate platform as well as her mild and “academic” character.
Those characteristics differ dramatically from the approach of traditional DPP politicians, who have been known for their eloquence, radical rhetoric and grassroots spirit.
“There is no question that she is a unique politician that neither DPP supporters nor the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have ever seen before,” Tsai’s chief campaign director Wu Nai-ren (吳乃仁) told the press this week.
Wu, an experienced and battle-tested election expert known for his strategic planning, did not seem worried about the argument that Tsai’s campaign has been “slow-paced, passive and defensive.”
“As far as ‘tempo’ is concerned, I think we are much quicker this year than during the 2008 presidential election, when the campaign was not hotly contested until two months before election day,” he said.
Strategies, styles and tempo of campaigns vary with different candidates, he said.
“And because Tsai is so different from previous DPP candidates, the party will this time run a very different campaign,” he said.
Tsai is a politician who will not present an idea until she is fully prepared, nor someone who uses strong words for the sole purpose of exciting a crowd, Wu said.
The Tsai camp is comfortable with the tempo at which the campaign is progressing and does not worry too much about the KMT’s “aggressiveness” in seizing every opportunity to attack her, Wu said.
However, local politicians have different ideas.
“I do see the Tsai camp having trouble with its agenda-setting ability and I agree that her campaign has been somewhat passive and conservative,” said a DPP candidate in a local legislative district who wished to remain anonymous because he did not want to be seen as “offending” Tsai.
Tsai’s speeches and campaign strategy have trouble appealing to traditional and local DPP supporters and that could have a negative impact on not only herself, but also candidates for the legislature, because the legislative elections will be held at the same time as the presidential election on Jan. 14, the candidate said.
“I would be very concerned if her campaign officials said they are comfortable with the way this campaign is going,” he said.
Tsai’s uniqueness and positive image have been the main reasons why the DPP has been able to rise from the ashes of 2008 and re-emerge as a strong challenger to the KMT, said another legislative candidate who declined to be identified.
“She is the biggest asset the DPP has right now. I would say Tsai Ing-wen is probably more popular than the DPP. The most important thing is how we are going to use Tsai to our advantage,” he said.
Meanwhile, party sources said Tsai was scheduled to visit the US next month to drum up support for her presidential bid.
Tsai is scheduled to depart on Sept. 12 for a seven-to-10-day US trip.
“Details of her itinerary have yet to be fleshed out, but Washington, the center of US politics, and Los Angeles, a major hub for Taiwanese expatriates, will definitely be on the list of destinations,” a Tsai campaign manager said.