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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, November 1, 2004

Cheney predicts Bush will 'carry Hawai'i'

 •  Photo gallery — Cheney's visit

By Derrick Depledge
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking to thousands of cheering Republicans late last night at the Hawai'i Convention Center, made a final appeal to Hawai'i voters to re-elect President Bush tomorrow.

Vice President Dick Cheney was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd at last night's Republican rally at the Hawai'i Convention Center.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

"On Tuesday I have a feeling we're going to surprise a lot of people back on the Mainland," Cheney said. "We're going to carry Hawai'i."

The rally was the climax of an unprecedented focus on Hawai'i before a presidential election, with Republicans and Democrats sending high-level figures over the weekend to influence voters and capture the state's four electoral votes.

Hawai'i voters have chosen Republican presidential candidates only twice since statehood, but after state polls indicated the race here could be close, both parties added Hawai'i to the dozen or so states that could tip the election. The last national USA Today-CNN-Gallup Poll had Bush slightly ahead of Sen. John Kerry for the popular vote and the two tied after projecting how undecided voters would choose.

With a lei draped over his sport coat and his wife, Lynne, and Gov. Linda Lingle standing nearby, Cheney said Bush has shown the strength and leadership the nation needs to win the war on terrorism.

"We are standing just a few miles from Pearl Harbor, the site of a sudden attack ... Three years ago, America faced another sudden attack," Cheney told a crowd estimated by local GOP officials at between 5,000 and 7,000.

Cheney said that "the clearest, most important difference in this campaign is simple to state: President Bush understands the war on terror and has a strategy for winning it. John Kerry does not."

Although the crowd was partisan, Cheney, recognizing Hawai'i's Democratic history, reached out to undecided voters. "It doesn't matter which party you belong or who you have voted for in the past, we're asking for your support," he said.

Earlier yesterday, Sen. John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, sharply criticized Cheney and Bush and said the Democrats have a better vision on healthcare and education for Hawai'i voters.

"The vice president, first, is part of the first administration in over 70 years to lose jobs for America," the North Carolina Democrat told The Advertiser in a telephone interview from Columbus, Ohio. "Second, he has consistently sided with big drug companies, big insurance companies, big HMOs, against the interests of the people of Hawai'i. And that's one of the reasons healthcare costs have skyrocketed and so many people have lost their healthcare coverage.

"It's basically an issue of whose side are you on."

Hawaiian issues noted

Vice President Dick Cheney greets well-wishers at the Hawai'i Convention Center last night following his speech.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Edwards repeated his and Kerry's support for a Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill that has been held up in Congress since 2000. The bill would recognize Hawaiians as an indigenous people, similar to American Indians and Native Alaskans, and would establish a process for Hawaiian sovereignty.

The Bush administration has not taken a position on the bill, and several Republicans in Congress believe it would give special preferences to people based on their race.

"Both of us believe that it's important to preserve the culture and the language of Native Hawaiians," Edwards said. "We believe in the right for self-determination. There is a unique language and culture that it's important that it be recognized.

"The bottom line is we support it because we believe it's the right thing to do."

Miriam Hellreich, a GOP national committeewoman from Hawai'i, said she senses the same spirit and optimism among Republicans as she did in 1984 when Ronald Reagan won Hawai'i as part of a national landslide. The only other Republican presidential candidate to win Hawai'i was Richard Nixon in 1972. Nixon campaigned in the Islands in 1960, when he narrowly lost to John F. Kennedy.

Cheney's visit is a coup for Lingle, who is getting national attention for her popularity in what has been thought of as a solidly Democratic state.

"I think it's going to mean a lot to the people of Hawai'i that he cares enough about us to come here," Hellreich said. "It's definitely going to motivate a lot of people who are undecided. This time, their vote counts."

While the Hawai'i polls caught many by surprise, several state and national political operatives said they had been detecting a close race from internal polls over the past few months.

Neil Newhouse, a national Republican strategist who did polling in urban Honolulu in mid-September for Republican congressional candidate Dalton Tanonaka, believes Bush has the edge. "It's apparent that the intervening six weeks have done little to convince Hawai'i voters otherwise," he said. "Simply put, John Kerry has failed to make his case to the state's voters."

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai'i, who campaigned for Kerry this past weekend on O'ahu and Maui and will be on the Big Island today, said he believes Kerry has the momentum. He said the close polls may have inspired Democrats. "It sometimes helps," the senator said. "It really fires up your people."

Cheney's appearance followed a Democratic rally on Friday night at Farrington High School with former Vice President Al Gore and Kerry's oldest daughter, Alexandra. Kerry and former President Bill Clinton did telephone interviews with Hawai'i television stations last week, and national Democrats poured more than $200,000 in advertising into the state over the past several days.

Last stop in a long day

Rob Kalikolehua Burns, of Hawai'i Kai, made his political preference clear last night.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

Cheney stepped off his plane at Hickam Air Force Base last night at 10:30 p.m. It was the day's final stop after campaign appearances in Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and New Mexico. He was flying to Colorado right after the Honolulu appearance.

Lingle and Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona greeted the vice president and his wife at the air base.

Waiting for them across the street from the convention center were about 200 protesters, some dressed in costumes such as the Grim Reaper and Darth Vader.

They carried anti-Bush and anti-Cheney signs and chanted, "Go home Cheney," as the vice president's motorcade rolled up to the convention center.

Inside the convention center, which volunteers decorated with faux palm trees and rainbow-colored and red-white-and-blue balloons, several people said Lingle's ties to the president paid off at a critical time.

"I really like the connection there. It's good for our state," said Boxley Diggs, a retired Air Force veteran who lives in Mililani.

Katie Wida, a gymnastics coach from Makaha, wants to believe that Bush has a real chance in Hawai'i tomorrow. "It's so close," Wida said. "I can't imagine anyone being undecided right now."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Advertiser reporter Dan Nakaso contributed to this report. Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.

• • •

Dick Cheney at the Hawaii Convention Center appearing for the Republicans's political rally

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

(left to right) Eddie Hibler, a Vietnam Vet, confronts protesters, Anthony Yamashiro, 19, of Makiki, and Dmitry (cq) Krupitsky, of Waikiki, outside of the Hawaii Convention Center after Cheney left on Sunday evening.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

Dick Cheney at the Hawaii Convention Center appearing for the Republicansšs political rally shakes hands with supporters

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

The Crowd still waiting for VP Dick Cheney while Hawaiian entertainment going on stage.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Sonya Hernandez, of Waianae, cheers for George W. Bush in line outside the Hawaii Convention Center on Sunday evening.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

(center to right) Minnie (cq) Lou Long, of Kahalu'u, and Jim Long, of Kahalu'u, smile while they walk to the Hawaii Convention Center on Sunday evening.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

Jim Long, of Kahalušu, stands in line to go into the Hawaii Convention Center on Sunday evening.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

Jacques Porche protests against the Republicans by the Hawaii Convention Center on Sunday evening.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser