Hawaii Poll Numbers Tell The Story

Numbers tell the story, and a recent StarAdvertiser/Hawaii News Now “Hawaii Poll” told several of them.

Consider, for example, why an advertisement for Linda Lingle’s candidacy for the United States Senate, paid for by a political action committee (PAC), stated that she’d provide “bipartisan leadership” with President Barack Obama to expand tourism in Hawaii.

The Hawaii Poll of some 771 eligible voters showed that Obama, despite three long years of partisan opposition from congressional Republicans, receives a 69 percent approval rating from Island voters, down just 5 percent from 74 percent of the presidential vote they gave him in the 2008 election.

Lingle’s pollsters understand that number. So, too, do her consultants and the PACs that will pour money into her campaign. They also understand that while Obama’s approval rating nationally has only recently ticked up near 50 percent, that of Congress hovers around 10 percent, lower than it’s ever been, and that Republican partisanship has contributed mightily to that dismal number.

Hawaii folk obviously don’t approve of Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell’s oft-voiced most important objective: making Obama a one-term president. And, nine months before the general election, they don’t much like the idea of sending to Washington a senator who will help McConnell make Obama’s second term as uncomfortable as his first.

The Hawaii Poll made that clear. Both of the Democrats in the race trounce Lingle in February: Mazie Hirono 57 percent to 37 percent, and Ed Case 56 percent to 36 percent, proving the advantage of having a favorite son at the top of the ticket. So Hawaii voters will hear a lot from pro-Lingle PACs and her own $7 million to $10 million campaign about working in a “bipartisan fashion.” That kind of money can go a long way toward changing voters’ minds.

Hawaii Poll numbers for the Democrats’ contest for the United States Senate told a story as well a sobering one for Ed Case. Of those polled who said they intended to vote in the Democratic primary Aug. 11, 56 percent favored Mazie Hirono, 36 percent favored Case. Case is an awe-inspiring shoe-leather-and-handshake politician, but he, too, is going to need cash. So far, Hirono’s been able to raise more mind-changing money.

Then there’s the story numbers tell about former Gov. Ben Cayetano. With the words barely out of his mouth that he was running for Honolulu mayor as the anti-rail candidate, 44 percent of the Oahuans in the Hawaii Poll said they’d vote for him over incumbent Peter Carlisle, 35 percent, and former city managing director Kirk Caldwell, 16 percent. Both Carlisle and Caldwell support rail.

Cayetano says, of course, that he’s not just an antirail candidate. Perhaps not, but the Hawaii Poll also showed that support for the $5.2 billion rail project has dropped among Oahu voters from 49 percent last May to 43 percent today nine months during which Cayetano and others have waged a concerted effort in the courts and in the press to block rail’s construction.

Should Cayetano win 50 percent plus one vote in the August primary election, he becomes the next mayor. If not, it will likely be the former governor against either a pro-rail Carlisle or a pro-rail Caldwell in the general election. All three know how to fix potholes and pick up garbage. In the minds of Oahu voters, this election will be about rail.