At the press conference this week announcing his endorsement by the police officers’ union, mayoral hopeful Kirk Caldwell retold the story he’s shared numerous times already on the campaign trail this year.
“Last time, I had a 45-day sprint. Literally, 45 days as mayor. I couldn’t really start running until the mayor announced that he’s running for governor and filed because, up to that point, we had a mayor sitting in that position,” he told reporters Tuesday, flanked by SHOPO president Tenari Maafala. “And in that 45-day period, I sprinted to within, on election day, if you just count the election-day votes, less than a half-percent of winning.”
It’s an intriguing argument, and would help assuage concerns that Caldwell has a tall mountain to climb after he polled a distant third in a new survey. According to Ward Research, Ben Cayetano leads with 44 percent, followed by Peter Carlisle with 35 percent and Caldwell with 16. The margin of error was 4.2 percent.
But Caldwell overstates his 2010 success, if just a little bit.
First of all, on the length of the “sprint.” Mufi Hannemannresigned as mayor on July 20, 2010, leaving Caldwell as acting mayor. From that date until the Sept. 18 vote was 60 days, not “literally 45,” as Caldwell said.
Secondly, while Civil Beat‘s post-election analysis showed Caldwell did indeed narrow the gap against Carlisle, it was to 2.5 points, not “less than a half-percent.” More interestingly, the truth is that Caldwell actually did worse on election day than he did in early, absentee voting.
It’s possible that Caldwell’s internal polling told a different story than voting results in 2010. But asked about the half-point statement after the press conference, a campaign spokesman checked the tape, talked to the candidate and determined Caldwell “just misspoke.”
It’s not worthy of the full Civil BeatFact Check treatment — too nitpicky. But it’s worth exploring since it’s Caldwell’s broader narrative for this race. He says he’ll benefit from the extra time this year.
“A few more days, people felt I would win,” he said Tuesday of the 2010 race. “I’m starting early this time. I announced in January and I’m working hard each and every day to get my name out there.”
Retired University of Hawaii political science professor Neal Milner says name recognition remains a concern for Caldwell, as many voters don’t remember him as mayor.
“There still are a lot of people, compared to the other two candidates, who don’t know much about Caldwell,” Milner said. “It takes a long time, especially if you’re running against someone who’s well-known.”
Milner said Caldwell should plaster his name all over Oahu and might need to be aggressive with negative campaigning to draw distinctions between himself and his opponents if he wants to “jump the line.”
What about the idea that more time will give Caldwell a chance to make up ground?
“He’s saying exactly what you say when you’re putting a happy face on a campaign,” Milner said. “Yeah, time helps, but I think … the rabbit has gotten farther away from the greyhounds.”
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