WHAT do Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George Bush and Hawaii's Gov. John A. Burns have in common? Answer: They all were first defeated for the top office they finally won.
Linda Lingle, who says she would like to try again for governor of Hawaii, cited this to a gathering of Hawaii Kai area Republicans last Saturday.
She is a real trouper who seemed to mean it when she said she loves campaigning and liked everything about her 1998 race for governor except the losing part.
Lingle, now Maui's ex-mayor after eight years, will have to maintain herself in the public eye to have any hope of winning the governorship in a second try three years from now.
It won't be easy since the Republican Party has no high visibility spots to offer her other than perhaps becoming party chairwoman. She says she is considering media-related offers and will move to Honolulu March 1.
She further says she will help to rebuild the Republican Party by moving it deeper into everyday community affairs and nourishing candidates who ran in 1998 and lost. GOP success in next year's elections will be a part of her decision on whether to run again in 2002.
Lingle created a lot of good will in 1998. She showed a strong moral compass by abiding by a voluntary spending limit she had committed to and not spending the final $75,000 to $100,000 in contributions that snowballed late in the campaign.
As is now known, she is articulate, frames issues clearly and is not ruled by rancor. Even though labor union leaders don't endorse her she can reach past them to make sense to their members.
She moved from a neighbor island base to within a percentage point of victory. She pretty well demolished gender as a factor. She showed cross-ethnic appeal. Caucasians are only 24 percent of the population. She got 49 percent of the votes.
She also helped relegate the bad old plantation days to the GOP past. She didn't live here then. She is a GOP moderate, far from being the Newt Gingrich clone she was alleged to be by the Cayetano camp.
If she can stay the course, she can have realistic hopes of winning in a second try. She senses a broad belief that a strong two-party system can help Hawaii, even if other 1998 election results didn't show it.
The last big Democratic landslide for governor was a 60 percent re-election victory for the Waihee-Cayetano ticket in 1990. Ben Cayetano won a three-way race with just 36 percent of the votes in 1994. He polled just over 50 percent in 1998.
The 2002 situation looks like this: Cayetano can't run again. Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono seems sure to seek the Democratic nomination. Mayor Jeremy Harris of Honolulu may, too. But now there is talk of him running for Congress next year. This would take on added credibility if Sen. Daniel Akaka decides not to seek re-election. He will be 76 at the end of this term.
EITHER Harris or our current two members of Congress might try for the Akaka seat. So might former Gov. John Waihee. If either Rep. Neil Abercrombie or Patsy Mink runs for the Senate, then a House seat would be open. Stay tuned and remember that Sen. Daniel Inouye had a talk with Harris just before Harris dropped out of the 1998 governor race.
In 2002 it possibly could come down to just Lingle and Hirono, two women -- a real first!
A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.