comscore Losing with grace can lead to winning opportunities | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Lee Cataluna

Losing with grace can lead to winning opportunities


Some people lose an election, pick themselves up and come out a winner in the next race. Some candidates lose more than they win but still end up moving up the ranks to higher office. And some lose once and are forever a loser, as if they wear their defeat like a scar or a limp.

So what’s the difference between losing and being a loser?

It’s what you do in the days and weeks after defeat.

All that stuff that Mom or Coach or Tony Robbins told you: Hold your head up, get busy.

Case in point, Mazie Hirono. Do we even remember when she ran for mayor? Governor? Or when she ran for Patsy Mink’s seat in Congress only to lose to Ed Case? She bided her time, kept herself present in the public eye without being annoyingly unavoidable and ultimately got to D.C. barely five years after getting whupped by Linda Lingle. Makes you think about who really won back in 2002.

Hirono turned from loser to winner mostly because she kept running until her number came up, but also because she never sulked or retreated.

People still remember Ed Case not showing up at the unity breakfast the morning after losing his U.S. Senate challenge to Dan Akaka in 2006. Though he’s made nice to the party since then, falling on his sword for Colleen Hanabusa, he hasn’t reclaimed that swagger of a winner yet.

Mufi Hannemann, almost tyrannical in his campaign, is positioning himself as the most graceful and good-natured loser anyone can remember. He could have pulled a Nixon ("You won’t have Mufi to kick around anymore") but instead has been out and about, giving upbeat speeches, shaking hands, endorsing Abercrombie and tweeting about all of it.

Positive thinking and getting back in the ring doesn’t always work, of course.

Even though she didn’t run, Linda Lingle may be the biggest loser of 2010. She could not help her lieutenant governor succeed her. She didn’t have the juice to keep an incumbent Hawaii Republican in Congress.

She couldn’t prevent her party from being outnumbered 67-9 in the Legislature, the most lopsided legislature in the country. Now she’s actually musing aloud about running for Akaka’s seat in two years. Somebody should tell her that if squeaky-clean Charles Djou couldn’t win enough votes, she with her Superferry-load of political baggage is going to have a long slog.

But memories and attention spans get shorter all the time. Former President George W. Bush has a new book out and he’s cheerfully telling anyone who’ll listen what a great job he did teeing it up for Barack Obama. A couple of years from now, a smiling, upbeat Linda Lingle might even be ready for a rematch with Mazie.

Lee Cataluna can be reached at


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