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As his rankings drop, Gov. Ige needs to give voters a strong, cohesive reason to re-elect him

As his rankings drop, Gov. Ige needs to give voters a strong, cohesive reason to re-elect him

Honolulu Star-Advertiser, April 15, 2018

By Richard Borreca

A veteran Democratic consultant reflected on Gov. David Ige’s current re-election campaign, seeking to draw a comparison to Ige’s onetime mentor, former Gov. George R. Ariyoshi.

“If Ariyoshi was campaigning on being ‘quiet and effective,’ David is even quieter,” the consultant said.

Indeed if you review Ige’s public statements, even the times reserved for him to boast about accomplishments, they are peppered with asides about his quiet and reserved nature.

“I do agree that I haven’t spent as much time making a splash or claiming credit for the things we have done,” Ige said in an interview with the Maui News last week. “But it doesn’t change the fact that they got done. These are real accomplishments.”

Still, Ige’s actual ability to get his thoughts across and lack of capacity to move the electorate is a question in this election.

In a recent interview with Ariyoshi, the 92-year-old, former three-term governor said although he supported Ige against Gov. Neil Abercrombie four years ago, he can’t endorse him this year.

“How are you going to do it if you can’t get people to come together to do it? A leader has to lead.

“They have to say what has to be done and what is possible and what other people are doing so they can come together, but we no longer have that kind of thinking and that is what really frustrates me,” Ariyoshi said about Ige.

Ige’s principal Democratic primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a labor lawyer, puts together campaign speeches that sound more like one of her tightly constructed legal arguments than the soaring rhetoric of a moving campaign address — but this year, she is making Ige’s inability to communicate an issue.

“For years, people have struggled to understand just where Ige stands on critical issues, what his plans are, and who is actually in charge in any given situation,” Hanabusa said in a recent campaign release attacking Ige.

Pointing to the January missile alert and the Ige administration’s failure to swiftly retract it, Hanabusa noted “the internal confusion, inability to communicate and an utter void of leadership that are constants in the Ige administration.”

All this does not go unnoticed by Hawaii’s voting public. The recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser public opinion poll had 52 percent of registered voters surveyed saying they disapprove of Ige’s job performance. Most troubling for the Ige campaign is that just 37 percent of Japanese-American voters said they approved of his performance. If you can’t hold your base, the entire operation crumbles.

To make matters worse, the Washington-based media and research company Morning Consult last week came out with a survey ranking the nation’s 50 governors. For the first time, Ige was ranked in the bottom 10.

“It’s Ige’s first time in the bottom 10, posting a net decline of 20 percentage points in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the previous three months and marking the biggest quarterly slide among all governors,” said the research firm, noting the drop came after January’s faulty missile warning.

Colin Moore, University of Hawaii political scientist, noted that Ige’s campaign has no overarching theme.

“Even his campaign slogan, ‘Charting a New Course for Hawai‘i’s Future,’ reflects muddled thinking. He’s the incumbent. Why would he be suggesting a new course? I don’t think you can run as the ‘change candidate’ when you’re already the governor,” Moore said.

Also, with the primary election five months away, there is no center, no coherent calling together around a specific principle or goal.

To win, Ige needs to fill in the blank: “David Ige should be governor another four years because _______ “