Election 2010: We Begin Again

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - January 07, 2009
| Del.icio.us

Gov. Lingle and Sen. Inouye at the Arizona Memorial groundbreaking

Boy. Just when you think the long, long travail of election year 2008 is over - that there may be some respite from electioneering - election year 2010 begins.

Liberals started it. A couple of weeks ago, the folks at Daily Kos polled Hawaii voters on a 2010 United States Senate race between eight-term incumbent Democrat Dan Inouye and challenger Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

Inouye will, of course, provided he is still upright and sentient, run for re-election to a ninth term. He currently ranks third in seniority in the U.S. Senate and chairs the Senate’s Appropriations Committee during a period when it looks as if a gargantuan amount of money will be appropriated. Inouye’s re-election seems assured. Right?

Maybe not.

In the Daily Kos poll of 600 “likely voters,” Lingle did very well indeed. In the horse race poll Inouye bested her 53 percent to 42 percent.

Not bad for 22 months out and not a dollar spent.

And her approval ratings also looked good. Fifty-three percent of those polled had a favorable impression of her; 41 percent unfavorable.

Inouye did better, but not a great deal better: 58 percent think well of him, 37 percent do not.

At first glance, those numbers surprise me.

For the past eight years Lingle has been telling Hawaii that George W. Bush is among the greatest presidents the nation has ever known.

In recent months, she also spent a great deal of time campaigning against Barack Obama - a native son who garnered almost 75 percent of Hawaii’s presidential vote this past fall.

Then, of course, Lingle snubbed him by staying home rather than attending his meeting of state governors; she was one of a small handful of governors to do so - a handful of two, if I’m not mistaken.

That said, Lingle has been looking better of late. Her plan to meet the state’s economic crisis with a $1.8 billion investment in infrastructure projects makes sense.

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist, warned just last week against the negative impact of 50 Herbert Hoovers, i.e., the state governors, cutting back on expenditures in the face of a depression.

Make that 49 Hoovers. Lingle seems to know better.

Lingle’s attempt to get some sort of resolution on the issue of the ceded lands will also look good to many non-Hawaiians - and good government folk in general.

Many Hawaiians, on the other hand, may pause - and that could hurt the governor. To a significant degree, she owed her initial victory in 2002 to the support of Hawaiians.

Then there’s former U.S. and state Rep. Ed Case. Case recently polled his large e-mail list asking what office his devotees thought he should run for in 2010. “Around 40 percent favored Governor and 40 percent Congress,” Case told those on his e-mail list. “5 percent said either, 5 percent favored another office (mostly U.S. Senate or Honolulu Mayor), 5 percent were undecided, and 5 percent said none of the above.”

In his follow-up e-mail, Case thanked his supporters for their inconclusive advice. What is obvious from the poll is that Case will run for whatever office he feels he can win in 2010: the 1st District House seat Neil Abercrombie would vacate should he make good on the rumors he and his aides continue to spread about his ambition to succeed Lingle as governor - or the governorship itself.

What is clear about Case is his ambition. Since the fall of 2002, he has run an unsuccessful campaign for governor, two successful campaigns for

the 2nd Congressional District seat, and an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Case apparently learned one lesson in 2006: that running against incumbent members of the United States House of Representatives or Senate from Hawaii is not a wise thing to do. A lot of people - or a look at the historical record - could have told him that.

The 1st Congressional District seat looks like the best fit for Case. He prides himself on being a middle-of-the-road Democrat, and historically the first district has been the most welcoming of that brand. Former Congressman Cec Heftel immediately comes to mind.

Needless to say, in coming months we will talk more about Gov. Lingle’s political future - and Sen. Inouye’s, U.S. Rep. Abercrombie’s and former Congressman Case’s.

Won’t it be fun?

Please, tell me it will be fun.

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