Local roots favor Obama


POSTED: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

With February's Democratic caucus as their blueprint, organizers for Barack Obama's campaign in Hawaii are expecting big things on Nov. 4.

“;We're getting to the point now where we practically have the entire state organized, as far as our precinct captains and our district leaders,”; said Andy Winer, coordinator for Obama's Hawaii campaign. “;We're going to be able to put on a get-out-the-vote effort that I think is going to be really impressive.”;

Of course, there is nothing in political life that is a sure thing. But Obama winning Hawaii—the state where he was born and spent the majority of his formative years—comes pretty close.

A poll released last month showed the Illinois senator and 1979 Punahou graduate with a commanding lead: 68 percent to 27 percent.

“;I think in Hawaii they're OK,”; John Hart, a Hawaii Pacific University communications professor and political observer, said of the local Obama campaign. “;Hawaii is perceived as his home state—he's supposed to carry it.”;

Also going against the GOP is history. Hawaii has gone Republican only twice since becoming a state: the re-elections of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, both landslides.

But even against such odds, isle Republicans say don't count out their ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin.

“;I'm a Republican governor from a state that is probably among the top two or three Democrat states in this entire nation,”; Gov. Linda Lingle told cable network MSNBC after the recent vice presidential debate.

“;It shows that people are not partisan,”; she added. “;They'll vote for Democrats, they'll vote for Republicans. What they do want is us working together, and that's what the McCain-Palin ticket is all about.”;

Republicans acknowledge they are in an uphill battle.

Obama has proved to be wildly popular in Hawaii. Helped by a well-organized local campaign, he won the Feb. 19 Democratic caucus over Hillary Clinton by a vote of 76 percent to 24 percent.

His August vacation, just before the Democratic National Convention, caused a rock-star-like buzz wherever he went, drawing large crowds and turning locals into cell-phone camera paparazzi.

Republicans called it free advertising.

“;I thought (Obama) had 90 percent support in Hawaii because of all the free media he has gotten and all the money he's collected from Hawaii,”; said Rep. Kymberly Pine, a co-chairwoman of McCain's Hawaii campaign. “;We know this is a blue state, but the people that are on the John McCain team believe and love this man.

“;In the spirit of never surrender, never quit, and always fight for what you believe in, our team is always excited.”;

Obama organizers say it's their job to not get complacent.

Winer said the campaign is aiming to have Hawaii give Obama his largest margin of victory in any state.

“;We've made it clear that we can't take the state for granted,”; Winer said.

“;We're also encouraging voters to understand that there are (local) races that are extremely important and that Barack is going to need help if he's to bring about the change that he's talking about, and he's going to need it at the federal, state and county levels.”;