Morning After Election Musings

Ah, the morning after. It brings hurt feelings, bruised egos, recriminations and pleas for reconciliation. The most overworked refrain from the victors: “I’m humbled by …” The most overworked refrain from the losers: “We ran a good campaign, but …”

They lost. Anti-rail candidates lost: mayoral aspirant Ben Cayetano, Councilman Tom Berg, City Council candidate and former state Rep. Sam Aiona. They were beaten by what seemed at times all the money in the world, from the Pacific Resource Partnership and every union and developer with an eye on Leeward Oahu.

Republicans lost again. Former Gov. Linda Lingle, despite superior debate performances, abundant help from the Chamber of Commerce and her own full campaign war chest, lost badly to Mazie Hirono and Barack Obama. Former Congressman Charles Djou lost to Colleen Hanabusa and that same Barack Obama.

And of course, Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama. In some parts of the great United States, the bloom may have been off the Obama rose in 2012, but not by much and certainly not in Hawaii. In 2008, Hawaii’s voters gave him 74 percent of their votes; this year it was 71 percent.

Republicans fared poorly in legislative races as well. They won two open seats in Central Oahu, but they lost one in Liliha and another on Maui. In their one good shot at a second Senate seat, Fred Hemmings came up short against Laura Thielen.

Those who repeat the tired phrase “The only poll that counts is the one on election day” lost as well, because pollsters and prognosticators got it right far more often than not this year. Consider New York Times blogger Nate Silver. In his “FiveThirtyEight” column, in which he takes all the recent polls and shakes them with a mix of other variables, Silver called almost every state correctly by almost exactly the right margin.

Or closer to home, consider Becki Ward of Ward Research. She does the “Hawaii Poll” for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now. When in the closing days of the general election campaign she found Mazie Hirono up by 22 points over Lingle, the former governor’s campaign howled that the race was much closer. Hirono won by a 26 percent margin. Ward’s polling proved prophetic – and almost perfect – on the Caldwell-Cayetano and HanabusaDjou contests as well.

There were winners, those who were so “humbled.” Women, for one. Hawaii’s four-person congressional delegation will consist of three women and Dan Inouye. Two of the Republicans’ state House wins were by women, Beth Fukumoto and Lauren Cheape.

Those who took the well-worn path of a Republican name into the Democratic column also won. Meet former Republican state Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii’s newly elected Democratic congresswoman, and state Sen. Laura Thielen. She’ll caucus with the Democrats, while Mama Cynthia Thielen will caucus with her seven Republican colleagues in the state House.

Youth won a few. The aforementioned Cheape is 25, Fukumoto, 29. Gabbard is 31. On the Big Island, 42-year-old Mayor Billy Kenoi held off 72-year-old Harry Kim.

Then there were the recriminations. The loudest came from former Gov. Cayetano on election night: “Never in my wildest dreams did I even contemplate that an organization like PRP (the Pacific Resource Partnership), whose members are anonymous, would come out and spend $3 million to attack me.”

Welcome, Gov. Ben, to the new political world of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. We all lost on that one.