Electoral College Dropout
it comes to presidential elections, Hawai'i gets no respect. The two leading candidates
don't think much of us and, apparently, neither does the rest of America. |
Sure, the local Republican and Democratic parties boost their respective presidential candidates, but Hawai'i doesn't even seem to be on the radar for the national campaigns.
Industry insiders tell us that neither the Bush nor the Kerry camp spent any money on local television ads. The reason President George Bush visited last year probably had more to do with our convenience as a stopover (on a return trip from an Asia-Pacific economic forum) than a desire to greet his peeps in Hawai'i. And-the biggest snub of all-on general election nights, news networks such as CNN call Hawai'i for the Democratic candidate before our polls even close, usually ahead of the state's first printout of voting results.
What are we? Electoral chopped liver?
"We don't really matter very much to them," says Ira Rohter, University of Hawai'i political scientist. "It's clear that we're a dominantly Democratic state, but the presidential campaigns have mainly focused their resources on places where it would make a difference. Hawai'i is not a swing state. Putting money in Hawai'i isn't gonna make a difference."
True, Bush and Sen. John Kerry are very busy pressing the flesh in states they consider more strategically important. And yes, Hawai'i only has about 626,000 registered voters and a measly four electoral votes. But the candidates might think twice about showing us some love if they really knew who they were dealing with:
oHawai'i hasn't always voted Democratic. In 1972, we re-elected Richard Nixon, and in '84, we did the same for Ronald Reagan.
o The 2004 presidential race is a lot closer in Hawai'i than you'd think. In August, a statewide Honolulu Star-Bulletin and KITV-4 News poll found that while 48 percent of registered voters surveyed supported Kerry, 41 percent favored Bush.
o Hawai'i residents have given more than a million dollars to both presidential campaigns this election cycle, more than several states with comparable populations, including Iowa, West Virginia and Maine, according to the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics research group based in Washington, D.C.
o The clear winner in local fund-raising? Bush, not Kerry. Hawai'i residents gave Bush more than $860,000, three times the $260,000 Kerry raised locally as of Aug. 31, the center reports.
And if Florida 2000 taught the nation anything, it's that every vote counts.
"Our state has a reputation for lower voter turnout, but it's not as if this has been a kind of lackadaisical backwater for political mobilization," says UH political science professor Neal Milner. "Some of the real modern work in using the media in politics was developed here in the Burns-Gill campaign. What the Democrats did here in the 1950s was bring people from the grassroots. [Republican Gov. Linda] Lingle did a real good job of that in 2002."
Times are a-changin', just like Hawai'i's political landscape. Maybe presidential candidates' opinion of the 50th state should, as well.