No Joke: Mufi For President

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - March 31, 2010

I was chatting with a political-type friend the other day and we came to the conclusion that Mayor Mufi Hannemann is on a path to become President Mufi Hannemann.

OK, pick up whatever it was you dropped. Yes, you can stop laughing out loud. But, if you stop and think about it, there are other political scenarios that make less sense.

In order to consider the possibility, you have to look at the player.

Hannemann has an attractive background that would serve him well in pursuit of the highest office. He was born in Hawaii, raised in Kalihi by a German father and Samoan mother. He attended Iolani, a private school, and went on to graduate cum laude from Harvard. He was a Fulbright Scholar and served in the Carter, Bush (41) and Clinton administrations. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress. He was elected to the Honolulu City Council twice and was chairman for one year. He ran for mayor, won a hotly contested and bitter race against the late Duke Bainum and was re-elected mayor in 2008.


So, he was born in Hawaii, has a mixed ethnic background, attended Harvard - and plays basketball, too.

If this thumbnail resume sounds familiar, yes, it’s virtually the same as our president today. I guess if you really wanted to stretch the similarities, Muliufi is as unique a first name as Barack and Obama rivals Hannemann as an unusual surname. The precedent has been set, and perhaps in Hannemann’s mind, if Obama can do it, why can’t I?

The recent political groundwork has been set. The mayor has positioned himself as Obama’s guy in Hawaii. This serves him well, since the president is likely to visit with his family on a regular basis. It’s not an overstatement to say that in every Obama photo-op, the mayor is sure to appear so his exposure is assured. Hannemann spear-headed the drive to rename Magic Island after the president surely scoring points with the POTUS staff. With his run for governor, it’s no secret that he’s courting the president for his support. I am not sure he’ll get it, given Neil Abercrombie’s relationship with Obama, but it is assumed the president will remain neutral during the primary. This, in and of itself, can be presented as a tacit endorsement of Hannemann, if spun correctly. And let’s face it, there is not better spin doctor in the biz than the mayor.

Now, given Hannemann’s level of confidence (detractors would say “hubris”), there is no doubt he believes he will be the next governor. If he succeeds, he’ll have an even bigger stage to tout his experience and demonstrate his “leadership.”


If re-elected, Obama’s second term would end in 2016. If Hannemann serves two terms as governor, his service would be up in 2018. It is plausible that he would make a mid-term run for president since Hawaii law allows state office-holders to retain their seats for a federal election. Of course, an opportunity could emerge to run for U.S. Senate, too, but that is a discussion for another time.

They say that politics makes for strange bedfel-lows. The political speculation game can be equally strange. In the case of Mayor Hannemann becoming Gov. Hannemann becoming President Hannemann, it may sound implausible, but who thought a little known senator with a funny name would become president?

Lightning can strike twice, and if it could for anybody, it would be for Mufi.

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