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Editorial | On Politics

Maybe he deserves more time, but so far Abercrombie is tanking

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As honeymoons come and go, it appears that Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s is already pau.

Last week’s Public Policy Polling survey taken for the liberal-progressive website Daily Kos put Abercrombie at a 48 percent job approval.

The question was: "Do you approve or disapprove of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s job performance?" Of the 898 registered voters surveyed across the state, 48 percent said they approved, 41 percent said they disapproved and 11 percent were unsure of Abercrombie’s performance.

Voters who described themselves as liberals, Obama voters or Democrats gave Abercrombie the highest rating, while Republicans and McCain voters had the largest rate of disapproval.

The poll is not the final word on Abercrombie’s first steps, but it does show that he is not communicating with, or connecting to, Hawaii voters.

In comparison, during Gov. Linda Lingle’s first year in office, her approval rating was at 71 percent.

In fact, from 2003 to 2006 Lingle’s job approval never went below 64 percent. It was after the public outcries with schoolteacher furloughs in 2010 that Lingle’s approval rating slipped into the mid-40s.

Rebecca Ward, president of Ward Research, also notes that the numbers are similar to Lingle during her decline.

"I think the low approval among independent voters is the most telling," Ward said, adding that the budget crisis forced Abercrombie into a difficult position early in his administration.

I asked three heavy-hitting political consultants, who have all been involved in successful Republican and Democratic campaigns, to comment, if I protected their anonymity.

"Obviously you would expect there would be a honeymoon and hope that it continues," said one GOP consultant. "I would be disturbed if it were less than 50 percent in the first year; it is certainly a reflection."

The two other consultants, who have worked for both Democrats and Republicans, said that while they had some questions about the poll, it should concern Abercrombie.

"The problem with his communications team is that they have no experience in PR and it’s beginning to show," said one of them.

During the campaign Abercrombie had a strong team of veteran political operatives, who could forcefully tell Abercrombie what was working and what was not — but "those folks aren’t around now," the consultant said.

The other veteran said the almost-equal approval and disapproval numbers means about half of the people are still wrapped up in Abercrombie’s campaign excitement.

"The other half ( or slightly less) are beginning to realize they don’t know what the plan is, or if there is one.

"Perhaps as a plan and direction emerges more clearly, the new governor’s poll numbers will improve. Or, there better be some damn good rhetoric," the consultant advised.

Dylan Nonaka, state GOP executive director, said last week the party took its own poll.

While not disclosing all the results, Nonaka said the poll of 793 registered voters asked: "Is the state going in the right direction economically, since the election of the new governor?"

"It was 63 percent no and 37 percent yes," Nonaka said.

It will be up to Abercrombie to decide if it is time to declare an in-flight emergency or just hope the smoke in the cockpit clears.


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

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