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Abercrombie benefits from Obama's popularity in Hawaii, AP poll shows

By Herbert A. Sample

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 3:33 p.m. HST, Nov 3, 2010

While the rest of the United States was kicking Democrats out of office, longtime Hawaii Democratic pol Neil Abercrombie cobbled together a mix of constituencies for a decisive victory over Republican Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona.

According to Wednesday's uncertified final voting results from the state Office of Elections, Abercrombie defeated Aiona by 17 percentage points -- 57.8 to 40.8 percent -- far more than indicated by any pre-election voter surveys.

Part of the reason for Abercrombie's strong showing, as detailed by an Associated Press analysis of exit poll results from Tuesday's election, was the formidable support he gained from voters who favor Democratic President Barack Obama's performance in office and who dislike the way GOP Gov. Linda Lingle has handled her job after two four-year terms.

Of the 480 voters who responded to a question about Obama's job performance in the AP exit poll, 66 percent approved -- the highest in the nation.

Of those voters, 78 percent backed Abercrombie over Aiona.

During the campaign, the Democratic ex-congressman frequently tied himself to Obama, whose father Abercrombie befriended while studying at the University of Hawaii. And Obama's enduring support in Hawaii prevented Aiona from using the president's declining national popularity against Abercrombie.

The AP survey also indicated that Lingle's popularity is weak. Of 454 voters queried, 56 percent disapproved of her performance -- and 82 percent of them supported Abercrombie.

The Democrat used that to his advantage in recent weeks by tying Aiona to Lingle and some of her controversial decisions, such as the public school furloughs that roiled the state earlier this year by cutting 17 days off the instructional calendar.

Aiona's response on that point was mixed. At times, he separated himself from the governor -- "Linda Lingle is Linda Lingle and Duke Aiona is Duke Aiona," he said after a Hawaii Kai campaign meeting last month.

At other times, he allied himself with Lingle, saying he would follow many of her policy directions.

The AP poll also showed that the liberal Abercrombie won the allegiance of a cross section of voters -- including many that Aiona wanted, and needed, if he was going to have a shot at winning.

The Democrat, for example, won 59 percent of voters who described themselves as moderates and 20 percent of conservatives, according to the survey. Aiona won only one-tenth of liberal voters.

Abercrombie essentially tied Aiona for the backing of independents, who comprised more than a third of the voters who were queried about their party affiliation.

He also won more support than Aiona from union and nonunion voters, and those earning less than $100,000 a year. He was virtually even with Aiona among voters making higher sums.

The governor-elect made no public appearances Wednesday, and aides said he may hold a news conference Thursday after making preliminary decisions about the transition.

The exit poll of 539 Hawaii voters was conducted for AP by Edison Research in a random sample of 10 precincts statewide. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 6 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.

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