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.

Forget the fact that David Ige toppled Neil Abercrombie in a historic landslide in the Democratic primary for governor.

According to the Republican Governors Association, the state senator and the incumbent are actually “good partners.” It is a partnership, however, that has brought Hawaii nothing but financial woes, the RGA says.

It’s no surprise the RGA would target Ige. The group’s primary mission is to help elect Republicans to governorships. But trying to tie Abercrombie to Ige strains credulity.

Aiona in RGA ad on Ige

A screen shot from the RGA’s “Paradise Lost” commercial praising Duke Aiona.


It is true that, as Democrats, the two men have a lot in common. But as the primary election demonstrated, voters saw clear differences between the two candidates — on taxing the pensions of seniors, for example, or development in Kakaako and public money for private preschool.

One might also point out that, despite Abercrombie’s rejection, unemployment is low, tourism and construction are humming along, and the state’s finances are in the black. While the state faces many challenges, in key ways things are pretty stable.

But first, watch the political commercial in question, titled “Paradise Lost.” (Apologies to John Milton.)

My first reaction to this clip is: Is that opening shot a picture of Tropical Storm Iselle striking Hilo?

It turns out that Civil Beat is apparently to blame for the stormy sea imagery. The RGA cites one of our articles — Living Hawaii: Why Is the Price of Paradise So High? — that asserts that Hawaii’s middle class is “underwater.”

So, thanks for the plug, RGA.

While it’s doubtful many voters will see Ige and Abercrombie as two peas in a pod, the RGA video is effective on several fronts.

The RGA rollout of the ad has been a professional production.

(One caveat: The RGA’s attempt to link Abercrombie and Ige as “partners” is pretty lame and taken from a candidate ambush, as seen in this short clip.)

Compared with the independent ads that ran on behalf of U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz during the primary season, extolling his record on environmental issues, this ad has higher production values. Things really do look dark in this commercial, until Duke Aiona comes along in the second half of the spot and the sun shines again likes its Morning In Hawaii  á la Reagan in 1984.

The RGA cannot coordinate directly with the candidate, but the footage of Aiona is strong and taken from a GOP unity rally held at the Kapiolani Bandstand last month. The RGA has people on the ground in Hawaii and they are keeping close tabs on their preferred candidate’s schedule.

The RGA rollout of the ad itself has been a professional production as well.

According to my Google Mail inbox, news of the ad came to me at 8:42 a.m. Monday, courtesy the American Comeback Committee, an arm of the RGA.

Ige and Abercrombie’s ‘Failed Leadership’

In that email, spokeswoman Stacy Day said, “Just weeks ago, Hawaii voters soundly rejected Governor Neil Abercrombie’s failed agenda, and all his ‘good partner’ Democrat David Ige offers is more of the same misguided policies that have plagued Hawaii for the past four years.”

Then, at 11:03 a.m. that same day, RGA Communications Director Gail Gitcho emailed a list of the resources it used to support the “Paradise Lost” spot.

Governor Neil Abercrombie calls David Ige a ‘good partner.’ Good partner? Together Ige and Gov. Abercrombie led the way for over $800 million in higher taxes and fees,” said Gitcho. “Hawaii voters deserve better after suffering under the failed leadership of Ige and Abercrombie.”

Finally, at 1:10 p.m., just to make sure we got the message, Hawaii Republican Party Communications Advisor Ted Kwong sent an email quoting a recent USA Today article:

“Paradise is expensive. To live comfortably in Hawaii, you’d need a salary of over $122,000, as of late. Dinner and a movie in Honolulu will cost you around $75, which is a little high. Your grocery bill may be on the higher end in this area as well, with the price of bread and eggs averaging over $4 each. The median home value in Hawaii is $518,800 and the median list price is a little higher at $525,000 ($420 per square foot). If you decide to rent, you’re looking payment of just under $2,000 per month, and that’s if you pay the median price. …”

In case you are unclear, national Republicans mean business here.

This is not the RGA’s first foray into the Ige-Aiona race. (Independent Party candidate Mufi Hanneman and Libertarian Jeff Davis are also in the running, but the RGA sees this as a two-candidate contest.)

Just two days after the Aug. 11 primary, the RGA said Ige’s election as governor would merely represent the continuation of “the failed record” of Abercrombie. When Ige canceled an appearance at a candidate forum sponsored by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii on Aug. 25, the RGA said he was ducking debates.

In case you are unclear, national Republicans mean business here. They believe Aiona has a real shot at becoming only the second Republican to be elected governor of the state. It’s a real possibility: Two fresh public opinion polls — one from The New York Times, CBS News and YouGov.com, the other from Rasmussen Reports — show Ige and Aiona in a dead heat with Hanneman trailing far behind.

Which is precisely why the RGA ad, and others that may follow, might actually persuade voters to go Aiona’s way. There is no single issue more important than Hawaii’s growing cost of living. Given that Democrats have controlled the state for nearly all of its existence, it is difficult for the party to separate itself from that harsh reality.

Compared to the RGA’s campaign, the Abercrombie campaign treated Ige with kid gloves. Because of the pointed content in the political ad, I asked the Ige campaign for a comment on the attacks. Here’s what Ige had to say in an emailed statement:

“Hawaii’s primary election voters overwhelmingly agreed with me that we need a new direction for the next four years. The Ige administration will chart a fresh future and not go backwards to the failed ‘FurloughFriday‘ policies of the Aiona-Lingle years.”

Note how Ige put Lingle’s name before Aiona’s. Guess he means to suggest that the Republicans were good partners.

New Video from the Candidates

Speaking of Aiona, he has a new commercial titled “A Vision for Hawaii,” although it might better be called “Trust, Respect, Balance.”

Those are the words that not only conclude this spot but are the watchwords — the talking points, the campaign themes, the primary messages — of Aiona’s second run for governor.

And, while candidates cannot coordinate with so-called independent groups like the RGA, the synergy found in ads from both can be striking.

In this ad, for example, Aiona harps on the same “$800 million in new taxes and fees” that is highlighted in the RGA spot.

Watch the clip:

Aiona’s ads this election are polished little gems, featuring family members and sports. It’s a positive and complimentary contrast to the RGA’s ads.

There is also a video for Hannemann, one that reminds viewers of his proposals to bring back the Hawaii Superferry and return state authority over Kakaako to the city.

The ad, called “No Same Old Same Old,” is nothing fancy:

Finally, below is a YouTube video of the Sierra Club’s endorsement of Ige. It’s nearly three-minutes long, it’s nothing special and it won’t be playing on a television near you. But it’s one of the most recent video promotion I know of for his candidacy.

Without a lot of money, Ige has not been able to pay for airtime. So, his campaign website lists various clips of the candidate such as his visit to the recent Okinawan Festival in Kapiolani Park.

Ige, however, has stepped up his campaign fundraising schedule. He has held four events since the Aug. 11 primary, has a fifth set for Tuesday in Washington, D.C., and a sixth back on Oahu on Oct. 2. So, expect more paid ads from the Democratic nominee.

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