View Full Version : Hawaii is in play

26 Oct 04,, 01:04
What's with Hawaii? On Saturday the Honolulu Advertiser came out with a poll showing the state going 43 percent for George W. Bush and 43 percent for John Kerry. On Sunday the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and KITK-TV came out with a poll showing Bush ahead 46 percent to 45 percent on Oahu, which casts 70 percent of Hawaii's votes and is 1 to 2 percent more Republican than the state average. This in a state which Al Gore carried in 2000 by a 56 percent to 37 percent, and in which neither campaign has advertised and which no nominee has visited.

Actually, these numbers are in line with Hawaii's political behavior since it became a state in 1960. Hawaii has two voting tendencies. (1) It tends to vote Democratic. (2) It tends to support incumbent presidents.

Interestingly, when the statehood issue was before Congress, Hawaii was considered a Republican state; Alaska, it was thought, would be Democratic. It has turned out to be the other way around. Hawaii's two House seats have been won by Democrats in every election except for 1986 and 1988, when Republican Patricia Saiki won the 1st district. Hawaii's two Senate seats have been won by Democrats, except for Republican Hiram Fong, who won one in 1959, 1964 and 1970. Democrats held the governorship from 1962 to 2002, when Republican Linda Lingle was elected. Democrats have had huge majorities in Hawaii's legislature for years.

Why so Democratic? The main reason is that Hawaii's Japanese-Americans, who make up about one-third of the population, are heavily Democratic. Japanese-Americans, notably Senator Daniel Inouye, built a powerful political machine in the 1950s that swept to power in 1962 and has dominated Hawaii politics ever since.

But in presidential elections Hawaii tends to vote for incumbents, of both parties. In 1964 Lyndon Johnson won 79 percent of Hawaii's votes, far more than the 50.03 percent John Kennedy won in 1960, when running against the incumbent vice president, Richard Nixon. Johnson won a bigger percentage in Hawaii than any other state but Rhode Island, where he got 81 percent. In 1968, with the incumbent vice president, Hubert Humphrey, as the Democratic nominee, Hawaii went Democratic by a 60 to 39 percent margin. Humphrey ran better only in Rhode Island (64 percent) and Massachusetts (63 percent).

But in 1972 the incumbent Republican president, Richard Nixon, swept Hawaii by a 62 to 38 percent margin. Only in southern states where George Wallace had run strong four years before did Nixon's percentage increase more over those four years. In 1976 the incumbent Republican president Gerald Ford lost Hawaii, but only by a 51 to 48 percent margin. In 1980 the incumbent Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, lost 44 states. But he carried Hawaii, by a 45 to 43 percent margin.

Starting in 1984, Hawaii's Democratic tendency tended to outweigh its support-your-incumbent-president tendency. Hawaii did vote for Ronald Reagan by 55 percent to 44 percent, But in 1988 it preferred Michael Dukakis to the incumbent vice president, George H. W. Bush, by 54 percent to 45 percent. And in 1992 incumbency did not work for Bush at all in Hawaii. Prominent Hawaii Republican Orson Swindle was one of the national leaders of Ross Perot's campaign, and Bush won only 37 percent of Hawaii's votes, well below Bill Clinton's 48 percent. In 1996 incumbent Clinton won Hawaii by a 57 to 32 percent margin. In 2000 the incumbent vice president, Al Gore, carried Hawai by a solid 56 percent to 37 percent.

But now Hawaii is close, and George W. Bush apparently has a chance to win the state, or to do as well as Gerald Ford. Why does Hawaii tend to favor incumbent presidents and lean toward incumbent vice presidents? My theory has long been that this tendency is particularly strong in Hawaii's Japanese-Americans. The Japanese-Americans who got into politics in the 1950s had vivid memories of the time not long before when their patriotism and loyalty were questioned. Inouye and other prominent Japanese-Americans served in the 442d Regimental Combat Team, which became the most decorated military unit in U.S. military history. In election after election, Democrats have summoned up memories of the time when the loyalty of Japanese-Americans was questioned and when they proved their patriotism in battle: such appeals helped narrowly beat Linda Lingle in 1998.

The Honolulu Advertiser noted that many Japanese-Americans in their poll said they were undecided, and that many Filipino-Americans were voting for Bush. Hawaii's large military population may also account for this support of the incumbent president. The Advertiser: "'I'm a Democrat but I strongly support what President Bush is doing,' said Jun Elegino, a nursing student at Hawaii Pacific University who serves in the Army National Guard. 'He's my commander-in-chief.'" The Star-Bulletin reported that Filipino-Americans favored Bush by a 56 to 36 percent margin and that half of Japanese-Americans and more than half of Native Hawaiians backed Bush; in other elections these groups almost always vote heavily Democratic.

It's unlikely that both these polls are flukes. The only two earlier public polls in Hawaii showed the race far closer than in 2000: American Research Group had Kerry leading 51 to 41 percent in September and the Star-Bulletin had him leading 48 to 41 percent just after the Democratic National Convention. So it seems that Hawaii is really in play.

Now consider this scenario from election night. It is minutes before 11 p.m. Eastern time. George W. Bush has carried Florida but has lost Ohio and New Hampshire, states he carried in 2000. Of the states he lost in 2000 he has won is Iowa. That leaves him with 261 electoral votes. There are six states where the polls have yet to close. One of them is Alaska, whose polls don't close until 1 a.m. Eastern time; that is certain to produce 3 electoral votes for Bush, but those won't be put on the board for two hours. Of the five others, California and Washington seem sure to vote for John Kerry. One, Idaho, will contribute 4 electoral votes to Bush: that puts him at 268. Another, Oregon, with its 7 electoral votes, has mail-in ballots and the results may not be known for several days. And that leaves Hawaii, with its 4 electoral votes. If they go for Bush, which now seems possible but by no means certain, he would have 272 electoral votes, 1 more than in 2000. It's just possible that Hawaii could put Bush over the top.


26 Oct 04,, 02:51
I'm sure the left will accuse Bush of enticing a bunch of cowboys to relocate to Hawaii!