The unDjouing of Charles

A question from the election night mailbag:

Charles Djou vs. Colleen Hanabusa was a winnable race for the Republicans. How did they blow it so badly?

Three reasons that stood out to me:

• The Democrats did a much better job with their get-out-the-vote effort. The Democratic appeal led by Barack Obama himself seemed to resonate while the Republicans’ reliance on too many poorly targeted robo-calls seemed to annoy.

This was reflected in victory margins by Hanabusa and Neil Abercrombie that far exceeded the projections of even the most optimistic Democratic polls.

• Djou made a serious mistake by mostly campaigning straight out of the anti-Obama national Republican playbook that just doesn’t put points on the board in Hawai‘i, where two-thirds of voters still think the local-born president is doing a good job.

Djou would have scored better by focusing his campaign more effectively on the local issues where Hanabusa was vulnerable with voters, such as Bishop Estate, the legislative pay raises and her ties to Ko Olina developer Jeff Stone.

• While both campaigns were viewed as overly negative, the Republicans were seen as dirtier in the end.

The TV spot with the unauthorized, doctored photo making Hanabusa look like Darth Vader backfired on the Djou campaign. The cheesy “Big Spender” ad by the Karl Rove group cost Djou votes every time it ran. When the Republicans finally hit Hanabusa on Ko Olina, they turned off voters by dragging her spouse into it and throwing around the word “corruption” without laying a proper foundation.

Hanabusa, on the other hand, did a good job of mixing in some soothing ads with positive messages about values.

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15 Comments on “The unDjouing of Charles”


  1. I’m glad you mentioned the soothing ads at the end of your blog. I was definitely getting annoyed with negativity from both sides, but when Hanabusa ran that radio ad simply stating that if you didn’t support xx, xx, or xx issue that she supported, you’d be more suited to vote for her opponent, I thought, “That’s the touch of class and sportsmanship we needed.” I think both parties can learn a good lesson about messaging, so they can compete better in the next election.

  2. Haehae Says:

    ” . . . far exceeded the projections of the most optimistic Democratic polls.” Not true! Internal polls for both Hanabusa’s and Abercrombie’s campaigns had them right on the kinipopo before election night. Extremely well managed campaigns.

  3. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Guess I missed the experience! I record everything I watch at home – including sporting events – and just hit the “skip commercial” button when I’m watching the program.

    To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think I saw any candidate’s ads during this election season.

    Are these commercials available for public viewing anywhere?

  4. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    I gather that I missed something since I record everything I watch on tv – including sporting events. Click on the “skip commercials” button and sudddenly an hour becomes about 43 minutes long!

    I don’t recall seeing anyone’s ads this campaign season.

    Are these commercials still availble for public viewing?

  5. Michael Says:

    Those who voted for hannabusa, Live With It!

  6. Richard Gozinya Says:

    Dave said: “…Hawai‘i, where two-thirds of voters still think the local-born president is doing a good job.”

    Yup. And Colleen also had the support of Senators Inouye and Akaka, both beloved and respected (and powerful) figures.

    That’s a lot of horsepower. Add in the union push, the historical Dem leanings of the State and you got to be a little surprised that Djou made even as good a showing as he did.

    End of day, the mud was messy but a little competition (emphasis on “little”) was refreshing,no?

  7. Dave Smith Says:

    The ad that implied Hanabusa’s husband got a “sweetheart deal” was odd in that the sources cited (in very small print at the bottom of the screen) listed a 2007 article for the Ko Olina action but the source for the supposed payback was dated 2004. The print on the latter appeared so briefly and was so small I couldn’t read it but its author must have been very prophetic to catch a “pay-forward” three years in advance.

  8. Kolea Says:

    The GOP GOTV effort actually appeared to be better organized (to my eyes) than the Dem’s. My impression is that the GOP had many more onsite poll-watchers tracking who had not yet voted and sending the word back to the central phonebank to ensure they showed up.

    While the Republicans lost almost every race, I think they have built up the infrastructure and recruited cadre which takes them out of this election much stronger than they went in.

    It would be worthwhile, now that the dust has settled, to look at the money which flooded into the state this election cycle. The Citizens United Supreme Court ruling has unleashed corporate money on a scale unseen before. Nationwide, that money has gone to Republicans many times higher than to Dems. I have seen reports claiming that “independent” expenditures went 11 to 1 to Republicans.

    In Hawaii, the ratios were probably closer, mostly because of Inouye’s clout and the likelihood the Dems would hold onto the Governor’s seat and the Lege. But nationally, the Chamber of Commerce, Haley Barbour and Karl Rove were able to take advantage of the funding almost immediately. The Dems, the unions and Dem-aligned groups had nothing comparable. And will not be able to compete on that level.

    This money will be a game-changer. Unless a way is found to successfully restrict the role of big money in elections, it will continue to flow into the state in ever higher amounts, with most of it going to Republican candidates, flowing through the infrastructure they continue to improve upon.

    The Hawaii Dems’ biggest advantages this cycle were the lackluster performance of the Lingle administration, the over-identification of the GOP with a particular type of dogmatic religious intolerance and the mean-spirited nature of the Tea Party/ Fox News-style of politics.

    I have read references to the “cultural” style of the Democrats. Well, the Tea Party “cultural syle” is a bit too rude, too intolerant for most of Hawaii’s people. At times, Djou appeared to consciously avoid being identified too closely with the Tea Party style. But his nuanced distinctions could not be heard above the noise and clatter and it cost him.

    The easy path for the GOP is to continue down the Tea Party/ Christian conservative path. It is kinda exciting to be so visceral and shouting rather than reflective and listening. In the short run, that approach is working pretty well across the US, even in places where you might not think it would.

    But even if corporate mainland money comes in at a higher level next election, I do not think it will gain majority support if they follow that approach. The diehards within that hardened GOP minority can find plenty of likeminded voices within their party to tell them to stay the course. I am tempted to shut up and not advise them to calm down. But I would rather debate with a reasonable, intelligent and calm conservative than with a hotheaded zealot.

    It really would be better for all of us, in Hawaii, and across the US, if the Republicans moved away from the extreme fringe and returned to the discussion.

    I think Charles Djou was partly a participant in the irrationality of the GOP, but ultimately, a victim of it.

  9. Dave Smith Says:

    Speaking of campaign donations, the following excerpt from a 10/31/10 West Hawaii Today article caught my eye:

    “Aiona, asked about campaign ads, noted his campaign and supporters have been
    outspent four to one.

    “Who’s putting out campaign ads?” Aiona asked. “We’re putting out a positive
    message.”

    Unfortunately, the reporter left both of those contentions unchallenged.

  10. WooWoo Says:

    I agree with dave’s assessment, and also Kolea’s that the GOP laid a foundation. In 2008, the GOP didn’t even suit up. This time, we suited up and got beat. I look forward to 2012, the next chance to move us in the direction of vibrant, two party government.

    Hopefully, every candidate that lost (dem, repub, libertarian, communist, etc) will find ways to serve the community in the coming years. You don’t need to have an office in the square building to make Hawaii better.

  11. Kolea Says:

    WooWoo, I missed the Communist Party line on the ballot. Heck, instead of wasting all my votes on moderate Democrats, I coulda just given them directly to the Communists! 😉

  12. Michael Says:

    Nothing impressive on what hannabusa has done or is going to do. So far not impressed with any woman politician.
    Djou lost because he went with what Republicans wanted and hannabusa only won because she is local Japanese.

  13. shaftalley Says:

    more taxes?higher taxes?more govt. surveillance?more enviromental fantasies?this will happen if people here in hawaii demand more and more from the government.people that vote for politicians that promise entitlements to their special interest constituents and the rest of us because they want to maintain power of patronageism.it’s human nature and politics as usual.

  14. Michael Says:

    hannabusa got a pay raise they say while those she is to lead got laid off. I am sure those who got laid off voted for Djou. We’ll see how she does.
    Could she be the first to get outsted? We the People of Hawaii have the power to impeach. she is a junior congress woman in DC. Let’s see how loud or how soft she speaks. Is the only words that come out of her is Yes, yes, yes? Vote Majority Democrat or is she brave enough to go against her strings?

    she never would have won on her own merits but had a Senior Senator and President aid. Even now the Senior Senator is now the minority but Senator Inouye has the experience and influence. Can he still do magic with the minority?

  15. ppcc Says:

    Djou appears genuinely honest and smart but seems to lack “street smarts” and the ability to scheme which is a major requirement if one wants to get elected to higher office. Either the candidate has to have this capability or hire a campaign manager with these type of skills.

    A few threads back in Shapiro’s blog, some poster attacked Djou and to defend Djou with a quick internet search I found some online article quoting Cayetano’s memoir in which he made very negative and critical comments against Hanabusa. Cayetano succinctly and factually pointed out Hanabusa and her self-serving issues with Stone, her husband and his dealings, Dickie Wong, etc. There also was one sentence in which Cayetano actually praised for Djou for standing up against Hanabusa questionable dealings and potential abuse of power while she was a State legislature.

    The perfect add for Djou would have been to have a picture of Cayetano and Abercrombie hugging(or holding hands in triumph?) after Aber’s primary win over Mufi. Then below this picture submit word for word of Cayetano’s negative comments of Hanabusa from his memoir. The final caption on the bottom of the add would be something like “Benjamin Cayetano has no respect for Hanabusa but respect for Djou. Who do you think we should send to Washington D.C. to represent Hawaii?”

    This is perfect as the direct attack is coming from “local boy”, staunch Democrat and Aber supporter who Aber closely aligned himself with in the primary to help get the Filipino vote. No way Cayetano can deny his own words cause he would look like a total fool and liar to claim in his memoir he only “made up”, without any basis in fact for all of his negative comments against Hanabusa.

    I don’t think Cayetano can legally pull such an add, by quoting his own words from his memoir with proper citation. If Djou had “street smarts” he would have called Karl Rove on a untraceable cell phone and provide Rove with the construct of such add and have Rove’s political action group pay to run a full page version of this add every other day for a month prior to the general election. Using the pathetic cartoon of Hanabusa on a ship throwing money away or using Photoshop to darken her picture like they did with OJ Simpson was stupid and personally offended Hawaii voters.

    Maybe some Republican thinking of running against her four years from now will print this thread and save it for the future?


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