I’m quite confused by Ma’s choices in the 2nd presidential debate this afternoon. For the past two days, I’ve been reading stories in the media about how Ma’s team is going to change its focus from attacking Tsai’s image to public policy. All the signs point to the Yu-Chang case as a colossal failure for the KMT, and they seemed to be backing away from it.
Then in today’s debate, Ma used nearly every opportunity he had to set the agenda to talk about Tsai’s image, not about public policy. Ma started out his introduction by accusing Tsai of smearing him with her response to Yu-chang. Both his two questions to Tsai and Soong were about Tsai’s image. Only his concluding remarks focused mostly on other ideas. I don’t think this worked to his advantage at all. Tsai’s response to his first question was extremely forceful, and Soong gave a devastating response to Ma’s second question. In my judgment, Ma completely wasted his two questions. Indeed, he might have been better off just saying, “Pass.”
As an observer, I am just as interested in Ma’s choice to pursue this line of questioning as in whether it was successful. If Ma’s team was going to change topics, why was he asking these questions? If they weren’t going to change topics, why have I been reading media stories saying that they would? I wonder if there is a struggle within Ma’s team over the best strategy.
If they continue to attack, does this mean that they have decided that they simply need to consolidate their base? I can imagine someone arguing that (a) the blue camp has a slight majority in the electorate, (b) they just need to mobilize all blue voters, and (c) the way to do this is to go negative. In this 51% strategy, the KMT seems to be playing to its base rather than worrying about undecided voters (or their legislative candidates in the south).
That’s my best guess right now, at least. Mostly I’m simply confused.