Editor’s Note: It’s an election year and that means lots of political commercials. Ad Watch is an occasional Civil Beat series in which we help you understand what you’re seeing and hearing when it comes to campaign messages from Hawaii candidates.
Is there anything else on local television beside political commercials these days?
Seems not, in particular in this last week before Saturday’s primary.
Let’s look at what’s working and what’s not, in terms of getting campaign messages across.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie and state Sen. David Ige, both Democrats, have fresh video fodder to consider.
There are three ads from the gov. This one is star-studded, featuring the president of the United States, the mayor of Honolulu and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:
With all those people endorsing Abercrombie, and with the economy doing so well, it’s a wonder that the governor trails by double-digits in three recent polls, including Civil Beat’s.
It’s a bit of a stretch to say that “teachers and parents” support Abercrombie’s commitment to “preschool for all,” as the ad argues. Most legislators oppose it, for example, including Ige, who says the state doesn’t have the funds.
The ad does manage to plug the governor’s latest plan for the state. And the photo of Barack Obama and Uncle Neil with a lot less gray hair is gorgeous and somehow poignant: Their respective jobs have clearly aged the two men.
Speaking of Barry from Punahou:
More pics of the president and the governor from younger days, along with a couple shots of Nancie Caraway, Abercrombie’s wife, who has not been seen much this election. (One exception: The 15-min. Bucket of Stars homage.)
One observation: Obama is pictured a couple of times at the White House, while Abercrombie sits at a desk examining papers. But it doesn’t look like his desk at the fifth floor of the Hawaii State Capitol, which is probably off limits for campaign purposes, anyway.
And, while I have never been in his official residence next to Washington Place, the views out the window would seem to be somewhere else.
One thing seems certain for sure: The ads do not appear to have been filmed anywhere near Miami, like the governor’s famous cabbie ad. And if you look closely, you’ll see a miniature yellow checker cab in the background in the first ad.
This third spot is all about the keiki:
We are back to the issue of preschool, and here the Abercrombie campaign offers teachers saying that they really do support his plans for preschool.
All three ads have one interesting thing in common: None of them feature the governor actually saying anything. That’s in contrast to many of Abercrombie’s other commercials.
Now on to Ige, who is also featured in three recent spots:
Keiki? Check. Kupuna? Check. Adorable photo of the young father and his three young keiki? Check.
Ig’e ad, only the second to come from his underfunded campaign, hits all those spots as well as obligatory nods to tourism, construction and the military. It’s far from memorable, even though of the pictures sure are pretty.
This next spot is more memorable, but it’s paid for by the Hawaii State Teachers Association, which has endorsed the senator:
The ad effectively reminds voters of a low point of the Abercrombie administration: His imposition of a contract on the HSTA when collective bargaining collapsed.
Never mind that the teachers later got their salary and benefit cuts back, and then some. It’s still painful for many in this union state, and it’s ironic, given that Abercrombie himself is a former teacher who is advocating for expanded preschool.
The HSTA’s ad is independent of the Ige campaign, as it must be. So is this next spot, which isn’t an ad at all:
Island comedian Andy Bumatai has been running his “In the Car” series on YouTube, and they’ve featured people like former legislator and surf champ Fred Hemmings and singer Melveen Leed.
What’s amazing about this episode is that it manages to do something the Ige campaign has not been able to do: Show that their candidate actually has a personality.
Bumatai himself brings this up around the 13:30 mark, when he points out that Abercrombie comes off much better in the televised debates with his challenger. Ige agrees and explains why, revealing at one point that his campaign spent a lot of effort to get Ige to perform better but finally gave up.
It’s priceless stuff. No wonder the Ige folks sent out a link to the YouTube clip with the appealing headline, “Is it Possible to be Completely Real and Still Get Elected Governor?”
Shan Tsutsui, the incumbent Democrat, is back to running a spot on pronouncing his name correctly:
This time, everyone pronounces his name correctly, except for his three daughters, who know him as “Daddy.” And yes, that is former Sen. Dan Akaka.
This spot also claims that Tsutsui had something to do with passing a minimum wage increase and killing the pension tax on seniors. That’s sure to anger one of his primary opponents, Clayton Hee, who deserves major credit on both issues.
Tsustui was Senate president when the pension tax issue surfaced, so maybe he can claim he had a hand in the matter. But I don’t recall hearing about him being involved with the wage hike, which happened when he was LG.
Speaking of Akaka, this commercial is a testimonial to “Mr. Shan-tastic”:
There is no more beloved political figure still living than the venerable Akaka, and his endorsement is a big score for the Tsutsui folks.
Akaka also manages to play the “values” card, but with Akaka it’s hard to be cynical.
Tsutsui’s ads are light. That’s not the case with Hee, the state senator who is gunning for his job:
Hee has raised the issues of the LG office cost and dodging of debates before, but now he’s doing so on broadcast television.
He has also brought up the issue of praise from HGEA retirees for his leadership in killing the pension tax in 2011, though he upset the union, which argues Hee is implying their endorsement. (HGEA is backing Tsutsui.)
Some might characterize this as an “attack ad” but others might see this as fair game. Tsutsui, after all, has not responded to Hee’s queries, apparently hoping that he can run out the clock on Saturday.
Hee, who trails Tsutsui in a race with lots of undecided voters, needs to move the dial. This commercial aims to accomplish that.
(Of note: Hee’s ad also gives Ige credit for defeating the pension tax. Could Hee be wishfully hinting ahead to an Ige-Hee ticket?)
Finally, another accomplishment of Hee’s is highlighted in this testimonial:
The Equality Hawaii endorsement is one of several powerful testimonials on Hee’s campaign website, but the trick is whether anyone will see them.
Meantime, there’s Dan Akaka heaping praise on Tsutsui and pronouncing his name correctly.