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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, October 29, 2006

Politicians play up patriotism

Jerry Burris
Public Affairs Editor

A week from Tuesday, Hawai'i voters (those who haven't already cast absentee ballots) will troop to the polls to choose a U.S. senator, a governor, two members of Congress, 51 members of the state House of Representatives, half of the state Senate and a host of other important county offices.

You can feel the excitement building already, can't you?

What's that? You can't? This election hasn't turned you into a quivering mass of political excitement?

The truth is, this general election has been remarkably quiet. In part, it is a natural letdown from a frantic primary that saw an unexpected and very dramatic Democratic contest for the U.S. Senate plus a spirited and talent-filled campaign for an open U.S. House seat a rarity in Hawai'i.

Those races produced plenty of electricity, so perhaps it is natural that there would be some backsliding during the short general election campaign period.

The other factor is that the general features popular and well-funded incumbents against challengers who are struggling to raise cash and public attention. It is hard to mobilize the troops when the battle is seriously uphill.

But despite the political calm, there will be an effort to inject some razzmatazz into the campaign during these final days.

On the Democratic side, there will be an attempt to rally the ticket from top to bottom around the issues that polling suggests are the strongest for any Democratic candidate this year: the war in Iraq, the No Child Left Behind education law, the high cost of living in Hawai'i and others.

A series of island-by-island rallies is planned, along with a coordinated TV advertising campaign that will drive these messages home.

On Saturday, a bus (not a fancy tour bus, but a plain old school bus) will be loaded with Democratic luminaries such as U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, congressional candidate Mazie Hirono, gubernatorial candidate Randy Iwase and running mate Malama Solomon for a whistle-stop run around O'ahu. After a number of stops from Kalihi to Waimanalo, the bus-capade will end up at the eternal flame at the state Capitol where a low-key "anti-war" rally will cap the day.

The plan here is to capitalize on voter unhappiness with the war and the performance of President Bush and use it to motivate the Democratic base to turn out on Election Day.

"Our strategy is to work on voter turnout, primarily," said Democratic Party chairman Mike McCartney.

On the Republican side, the campaign boils down to all Linda Lingle, all the time. The popular governor, running for a second term, will be front and center in virtually all GOP activities.

While there are no Republican Party events, per se, planned, the Lingle campaign has a series of rallies scheduled around the Islands.

At each of those rallies, the rest of the GOP team, including congressional candidate Bob Hogue, senatorial candidate Cynthia Thielen and others will be prominently featured.

Even when she is not there in person, Lingle will be a prominent presence in campaign brochures being sent out by legislative candidates and others. Many candidates have opted to feature the governor rather than the typical friends-and-neighbors endorsement on the theory that she may have strong coattails this time around.

"Clearly, the governor is the candidate in this election," says Republican Party chairman Sam Aiona.

So that about sums it up. For the Democrats, the election is about Bush. For the Republicans, it is about Lingle.

Voters will have to decide if this is message enough.

Reach Jerry Burris at jburris@honoluluadvertiser.com.