As we all know by now, Hung Hsiu-chu passed the 30% threshold with lots of room to spare. Her 46.203% average seems to preclude any idea of overturning her victory in the July party congress, when the nomination will be formally determined. Late last week, a few people were starting to grumble about that possibility. Assuming some of her support was empty, coming from strategic green voters, her polls might drop in the coming weeks. The Wang faction would then have an opportunity to use those lower numbers to overturn the polling primary result. However, now that she has convincingly passed, I think the chances of that scenario are remote.
At any rate, during the last week it certainly felt like the KMT was coming to an internal consensus in support of Hung. As more and more people came out in support, it felt as if blue supporters had collectively decided that they were fine with the idea of following Hung into battle. Only a minority protested. Wang’s public statement that he might still be in the race was a sign of panic, indicating that he also thought she was likely to pass. If he was going to stop her, he needed to do something dramatic. Alas, it was too little, too late.
In retrospect, this battle was a victory for front room politics. All the people who thought that the game in the front room was meaningless and that the real decision would be hashed out in the smoke-filled back room were rudely surprised. I’m convinced that if they could do it again, Wang and Wu would have simply registered for the primary. Hopefully this year’s experience will convince aspirants in future races to jump in and participate in the regular procedures rather than hoping for an old-style coronation. If you want the candidate’s sash, you need to seek it openly and aggressively. (I wonder if the Sunflower students are happy at this victory over black box politics! J)
There is one thing more. How did Hung suddenly surge to 46%? Her numbers hadn’t been that high in any polls. Today I had lunch with someone who knows a little bit about the KMT internal rules. He explained that, at least in the head-to-head portion, the written rules clearly state that the score is A/(A+B). In other words, all the undecided voters are thrown away.
The official results were that Hung got an average of 50.76 “support” (Do you support Hung to be the KMT candidate?) and 41.65 “intent” (Between Tsai and Hung, who do you intend to vote for?), for an overall average of 46.20. That sounds intimidating.
Last week, a TISR poll showed Hung with 41% support and 31% intent. However, those are the raw numbers. Apparently the KMT methodology is to throw away the undecided, support for other candidates, and non-responses. Those categories combined for 28% on the support question and 27% on the intent question. If you recalculate, that yields a support rate of 56.2% and an intent rate of 43.06%, for an overall average of 49.61%. That is not too far from Hung’s eventual 46.2%. In fact, if you are willing to assume that Wang Jin-pyng’s last minute appeal had a small negative effect, you can easily get to 46%.
From another point of view, what kind of raw support could we infer from the 46.2% final score? The KMT didn’t publish the full results, so we have to make a guess about how many undecideds there were. The TISR rates seem reasonable, so let’s use those. On support, the average for the three survey organizations was 50.76%. Assuming 27% undecided, that implies a raw support rate of 37.1%. On intent, the final average was 41.65%. With 28% undecided, that implies a raw intent rate of 29.98%. The average of those two is 33.5%. If you assume that undecided rates are higher, those numbers go down a bit. At about 35% undecided, Hung would fall below a raw 30% average.
I’m betting that most people think that the numbers released were the raw averages. Those are the numbers that we are used to seeing in survey results. Hung probably passed the 30% threshold with the raw results, but it might have been close.
I don’t think this is some sort of “cheating.” The KMT can write its rules any way it likes. In fact, I think that releasing a score of 46.2% instead of something around 33.5% was a wise decision for the KMT, regardless of the rules. As it stands now, the fight has been resolved. If Hung had gotten 33.5%, there is a good chance that the nomination fight would have gone into overtime, with lots of bloodshed and nasty recriminations. Instead, the KMT can now turn to preparations for the uphill fight in the general election.