My impression is that both sides are relatively confident they will win the presidential election. This confidence seems a bit stronger on the blue side. Whatever the result is on Saturday, the losing side is not going to be psychologically prepared. Some people are going to be very upset, and some are going to look for a scapegoat.
I was chatting with a good friend about the Taiwanese business voters returning from China. He made one of the smartest points I have heard in a long time. The media is suggesting that somewhere around 180,000 people are being mobilized to return. It is left unsaid that other people might return without being directly mobilized by the KMT, their company, or the PRC.
My friend, who is a blue supporter, dismissed these reports. All those people have to come back on airplanes, and there simply aren’t that many airplane seats. He had added up all the airplane seats on flights from China and found that there are only about 40,000 every week. There are some extra flights being added, but those numbers usually included the added flights all the way up to the New Years holiday. Moreover, not all of those 40,000 seats are Taiwanese; some who come back on Monday will return to China by Friday; some won’t vote; some will vote for the DPP. Even if you add in the seats coming from Hong Kong, this picture doesn’t change too much. In short, there will be a lot fewer voters coming back from China than most people are imagining. The plausible numbers probably aren’t big enough to affect the election outcome.
I visit a lot of campaign headquarters to collect flags. I’m not great at the soaking and poking method of field research, and this often just involves me going in, asking for a flag, and leaving. Many times, they are too busy to pay much attention to me. Sometimes they treat me like an English opportunity and I leave as fast as I can. Once in a while, I strike up an interesting conversation or learn something interesting.
Yesterday, I got two very distinct impressions about the elections in New Taipei 6 and 7 (the two Banqiao districts). D6 is the northern district (which has conventionally and confusingly been labeled the western district even though it is actually more easterly than D7). I went into the KMT candidate’s office, got my flag, and asked the staffer how the race was going. She said it was going well, so I challenged her by suggesting that D6 might be a difficult district for them this year. She looked utterly startled by my suggestion and said, no their race was actually quite easy this year. Now, campaign workers never say this. Even when they are going to win easily, they always tell voters that nothing is sure until the votes are counted and people need to come out to vote. If we have your vote (and the votes of your friends and family), we’ll be all right. This is simply a reflex response for most campaign workers. So I pressed a bit more, asking if Ma would get a majority in the district. At this, she looked knowingly and said, “I don’t know anything about that.” If past results are any indication, Ma probably won’t get a majority in D6 (and I’m pretty sure she expects Tsai to beat him there). However, the KMT candidate is so strong that the campaign workers have no sense of urgency at all. FG conclusion: KMT wins this seat.
Then I went south into D7. Judging how a campaign is doing by the morale of the staff is dodgy at best. However, this experience seemed quite telling to me. First, I went to the independent candidate’s headquarters. The candidate and his son were arrested last week for vote buying, and I wondered if that had crushed the campaign. What I found was just the opposite. The office was full of volunteers who met me (and a couple of actual voters who wandered in) with great enthusiasm. They dressed me up in a hat and vest and made me take a picture while everyone laughed. (Hey, look at the goofy foreign monkey!) When I left, one of them chased me to give me the cup of coffee that I had left behind. Wow. If that’s how they deal with all their contacts, that campaign is dynamite. They certainly did not project the air of a defeated campaign that was just counting down the days to their execution. Instead, defeatism was exactly the atmosphere I found in the KMT candidate’s headquarters. When I asked if they were going to win, a question that almost always inspires smiles and affirmative answers, they just gave me a hangdog look and a tired, “We’ll know in three days.” FG conclusion: The independent candidate will split off lots of KMT votes, and the DPP will win.
I’m pretty sure this is just about the worst possible way to predict outcomes.