He also won through fear: fear that his defeat would reduce sharply the federal funds that flow to the territory. He played heavily on the belief that his party was the party that was better able to ensure federal grants and that his friendship with the powerful Hawaii senators, Daniel Akaka (D) and especially Daniel Inouye (D) as well as being, along with the powerful California Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D) and George Miller (D), the protégés of the late Rep. Phillip Burton (D) (who features prominently in the Samoa News ad), were essential to keeping the grants coming.
He actually might have won because of all these factors if he had not been too clever a decade ago in getting the federal law changed to do away with the majority vote for his office. Since 2004, he has needed only a plurality to win re-election, eliminating the need for runoffs between the two candidates receiving the most votes. The change was made without any local input from local political leaders and thereafter was derisively labeled the “Eni Hunkin Perpetual Reelection Act.” The change served him well until last November.