Campaign strategy: Some thoughts about attacking Soong

I wrote yesterday that James Soong would be right to brace for a KMT assault. I imagine he knows whats coming, because he faced it before in 2000. In this ad from 2000, Soong speaking directly to camera, says “when I decided to run, I knew I was going to face savage attacks, because I’m competing against two parties”. He doesn’t give those attacks any credence by addressing their content, instead deftly moving on to say that both parties have neglected the real desires of the people. He continues with a restatement of the “everyman” image he earned and cultivated in the 1990s, saying that ‘I’ve listened to the people, I know what they want and I can deliver’.

Against the “everyman who gets stuff done” image Soong put across in his ads, the KMT went after Soong’s character. In this ad they explicitly question his everyman status, rhetorically asking off the bat “are you really just a regular guy?” As evidence that he’s not like you and me, they cite his luxury apartments in exotic locales. In this election, where “love for Taiwan” had become a salient theme (before it came to dominate in CSB’s re-electioon campaign), the ad asks rhetorically whether having luxury boltholes overseas demonstrates love for Taiwan. A nice technique in the ad is overlaying footage of Soong denying his real estate portfolio (and saying he’ll withdraw if found true) against apparent evidence of its existence. The killer line at the end “do you believe it?”, ostensibly about the claim that he would withdraw, but linked to a large volume of materials attacking Soong’s integrity.

In 2000, Soong faced very big scandals and many personal attacks from Lien and Chen and yet still stayed competitive to the end. This was largely down to the substantial social capital he had built up in his previous offices. The timing was also right for Soong, with voters wanting change but still not sure that they trusted a DPP president. Anecdotally, I remember Taiwanese saying to me things like “sure, Soong has his faults, but in that he’s no different from any other politician, but unlike the others at least he gets things done for people like me”. Soong does not have the same capital with which to protect himself this time, and it will be interesting to see if his everyman shtick still resonates long after he was really in position to prove it.

Mail me at jonathan.sullivan@nottingham.ac.uk, follow me on Twitter @jonlsullivan, or access my published and working papers at http://jonlsullivan.com

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