Fifty-five days before election day, officials for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said the party is “moving the frontline of the 2012 presidential election to the Da-an River (大安溪)” in central Taiwan, after gaining ground in recent public opinion surveys.
The move shows that the DPP thinks it has made great strides in central Taiwan, a traditional stronghold of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), and is ready to target northern support in the remainder of the presidential campaign.
The Da-an River, which flows along the border of Miaoli County and Greater Taichung City, divides north and central Taiwan.
The statement also has great meaning to the DPP, as it would no longer be a party that only enjoys strong support south of the Jhuoshuei River (濁水溪), which runs along the border of Changhua County and Yunlin County and is traditionally used as the border of southern Taiwan, as well as a “watershed” between the DPP and the KMT.
Conventional analysis holds that the DPP has been increasing its lead in southern Taiwan and the KMT still has a solid lead in northern Taiwan, making central Taiwan the potential “game-changing” battleground.
Recent surveys showed that the support rate of DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in central Taiwan — Greater Taichung, Changhua County and Nantou County, which is sandwiched between the Jhuoshuei and Da-an rivers — has surpassed that of KMT candidate President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), a senior aide of Tsai’s campaign said.
The Chinese-language magazine the Journalist on Wednesday quoted an anonymous KMT official as saying that an undisclosed KMT survey showed that Tsai is leading Ma in central Taiwan by 10 percentage points, and by 2 to 3 percentage points overall.
The aide also said that Tsai had overtaken Ma in central Taiwan, a region with about 2.4 million voters.
“I believe we can win in Changhua [County and City] and the old Taichung County, which was not an easy task in the past,” he said.
He added that the DPP is expected to lose in Nantou [County and City] by a small margin, given that it is the hometown of KMT vice presidential candidate Wu Den-yih (吳敦義).
“If we can draw even in old Taichung City, we can win central Taiwan,” he said.
The turnaround did not occur because the DPP had done anything special, but because of several fatal mistakes the KMT made, he said.
The DPP had already closed the gap in the region in the Greater Taichung mayoral election, in which its candidate Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全), who was later named as Tsai’s running mate, lost by only about 30,000 votes, or 2.24 percent. Su had made central Taiwan his priority campaign area after his nomination as vice presidential candidate.
Ma had mishandled many issues in the same period, which included his talk of a peace agreement with China within 10 years, the arrest of a Taiwanese diplomat by the US over a human rights violation and the much-criticized spending of NT$215 million (US$7 million) on a musical, the aide said.
The DPP could not afford to be too relaxed in central Taiwan as “a lot of things can happen in 55 days,” but it could finally push north into the Hakka constituencies and the Greater Taipei area of Taipei City and New Taipei City (新北市) with increased confidence, said another senior aide in charge of national campaign operations, who wished to remain anonymous.
It does not have to vie for Hakka support from scratch because Tsai, a Hakka, has made a couple of successful campaign visits to Miaoli, Hsinchu and Taoyuan and does not rule out visiting there again.
The DPP is confident it would register a vote share of more than 40 percent in Hakka-populated counties, which would be unprecedented given that its previous high of 39 percent came in former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) re-election campaign in 2004.
“If we can manage to cut the deficit in Taipei and New Taipei City to less than 100,000 votes, I think we can pull off a win,” the aide said.
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