They believe Bob Dole has enhanced his presidential hopes by selecting Jack Kemp as his running mate. Their evidence: a national public-opinion poll published yesterday by the Washington Post that showed Dole had sliced President Clinton's lead from 15 percentage points to 10 since Dole's announcement that Kemp was his choice for vice president.
"By the time this meeting is over, it'll be a dead heat," alternate Rick Clifton quipped during a caucus late last night of isle delegates, alternates and members to the Republican National Committee. National Committeewoman Miriam Hellreich said it appeared that early arrivals to the nominating convention weren't highly enthusiastic about Dole's campaign - until word spread that Kemp would be on the ticket.
Kemp's concern for minorities and the inner cities broadens the appeal of the GOP ticket, said Hellreich and other Hawaii Republicans.
Now, as the convention begins to launch the Dole-Kemp campaign, delegates are much more energized than in 1988 when George Bush named Dan Quayle as his running mate, said Hellreich, who also attended the 1988 convention in New Orleans.
Delegate Darrell Large added: "Let's face it. We were demoralized. Jack Kemp brings a lot of enthusiasm to this race."
A Dole-Kemp victory, coupled with a win by Republican Orson Swindle over U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D, urban Honolulu) would mean Hawaii would have much access to the White House, isle Republicans asserted.
Former U.S. Rep. Patricia Saiki, a convention delegate and a national co-chairwoman of the Dole campaign, has been a close friend of Dole for years, they noted.
Also, Swindle has known Kemp since the 1980 GOP convention when he unsuccessfully pushed Kemp as Ronald Reagan's running mate. More recently, Swindle and Kemp have been linked as members of the conservative think tank Empower America.
Hellreich and her husband, delegate Philip Hellreich, said when they and two other isle Republicans attended a GOP Western Regional Conference in Seattle in the late 1980s, they persuaded Kemp to lobby the Reagan administration to support reparations for Japanese-Americans who had been interned during World War II.
In a telephone interview from Honolulu, state Democratic Party Chairman Richard Port said Dole and Kemp are a political "odd couple" that won't be able to work harmoniously.
"They differ on so many issues - immigration, affirmative action, economic policy. I predict Kemp will be an embarrassment to Dole," Port said.
"Dole is trying to lead by looking beyond minor personal differences," insisted state Senate Minority Leader Michael Liu, who heads the Hawaii convention delegation. "Just as America is diverse, our party is diverse."
Before convention delegates proceed with anointing of the Dole-Kemp ticket, their work today includes approving the party's platform that still retains a plank calling for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.
And while pro-life Republicans forced the watering down of a "tolerance clause," during highly charged pre-convention meetings, it could have been worse without the influence of two pro-choice delegates from the isles who were the only physicians on the platform committee.
The medical backgrounds of Drs. Gertrude Endicott, a retired emergency room physician from Kailua-Kona and Philip Hellreich, a Kailua dermatologist, forced pro-life Republicans to concede that they meant late-term abortion when they talked about "partial-birth abortion," which is not a medical term.
That would mean opposing abortions in the second to the ninth month of pregnancy - literally all abortions.
"We wouldn't have had credibility if we were just two pro-choice delegates," Hellreich said.
"But as physicians, you can bring those medical points in (with more authority)."