Sunday, November 29, 2015         


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Aloha again, Mr. President, how things have changed

By Richard Borreca


It must feel good to be president of the United States and be in Honolulu. Welcome home, Mr. President -- we got your back.

Hawaii still leads the nation in President Obama approval ratings. Although even here in the Aloha State, the Obama brand is losing a bit of its luster.

The most recent Hawaii public survey, the Oct. 20 Public Policy Poll, put Obama at 56 percent approval. Back in March, the Hawaii-born president was at 64 percent.

Unfortunately for Obama, the rest of the country is not so supportive. The Real Clear Politics website averages all the major national polls. It reports Obama with a 44.9 percent approval rating, with 73.3 percent saying that the country is on the wrong track.

Fellow Punahou School grad Lowell Kalapa, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, recalls attending a recent Punahou gathering, and getting the feeling that the Obama swoon is over.

"Even in this state, there has been some disillusionment," Kalapa said.

"Yes, we are all in love with him because he is a homegrown kid, but there was a real division of the house," Kalapa says.

At this gathering, Kalapa said, the baby-boomer generation, those closer to retirement, were not supportive of Obama. Those who have seen the crashing stock market slice into their retirement plans are now not looking with favor at the president.

"They don't like his handling of the economy. Those who are young, those who just graduated a few years back, they are still gaga over his call for change, but all the hopes and dreams of his forward-looking administration have been dashed," Kalapa said.

Because Hawaii comes to the party with a large percentage of Democrats, it is not likely the state would be anything but Obama country -- but the president is not wearing well.

"It is hard to do anything without the support of Congress," says Neal Milner, University of Hawaii emeritus professor of political science.

Milner notes that a recent Gallup Poll had Hawaii as the only state giving Obama a more than 50 percent approval rating.

Still, Milner thinks that "there is no reason to assume that Hawaii would not continue to provide a strong cushion of support for Obama."

But things have changed. When Obama left Punahou in 1979, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics put Hawaii's unemployment rate at 5.7 percent. And, Hawaii was a more unionized state back then. A full 26 percent of the jobs in Hawaii had union protection.

Today the union job rate, according to the federal statistics at the Labor Bureau, is 23 percent. And today the unemployment rate is 6.4 percent.

Also what has grown in Hawaii is the population. When Obama left Honolulu to attend Occidental College in Los Angeles, Hawaii's population was 964,600. Today Obama is visiting a state with a population of 1.3 million.

The Labor Bureau also calculates the real number of unemployed. Back in 1979, there were 24,644 without jobs; today, that number is 40,230.

That doesn't mean there are 15,586 no votes for Obama. But the dignity of a steady, good job goes a long way toward making a happy voter.

Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at

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