How the right is winning Hawaii
Take note of the present tense. As Chris Cillizza writes, Republicans are excited, but not overconfident, about their chances of victory in the ongoing vote-by-mail special race for Congress in Hawaii. But let's take a moment to understand why Charles Djou, a talented Honolulu City Council member, is in position to win a three-way race. Beyond the Democratic bumbling that has led to former congressman Ed Case and state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa duking it out, splitting the vote, we've seen another very effective grass-roots conservative campaign, another successful push by right-leaning Web gurus to make this race exciting to the party's national base.
First, activists raised the emotional stakes by calling the district "Obama's home district." (He was born in Honolulu.) Just like Scott Brown was able to excite conservatives with the prospect of "taking Ted Kennedy's seat," Djou has dangled the possibility of an embarrassment for the president -- something that makes the otherwise modest goal of shrinking the Democrats' majority by one seat sound more enticing. Do a search on Twitter for "obamadistrict" and check out how many conservatives embrace the frame. (A lot of the credit here goes to Republican consultant Patrick Ruffini, who's also organized blogger conference calls for Djou.)
Second, activists rallied when Djou was attacked -- especially D.C. activists. Last month the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tried to raise Djou's negatives by arguing that his signature on Americans for Tax Reform's pledge meant he'd honored a "special interest group" to protect tax breaks for evil corporations. ATR punched back immediately and nonpartisan groups fact-checked the ad, finding it wanting. (And I'm told that the many D.C. groups that try to get GOP candidates to sign their pledges are on notice to behave the same way when one of those candidates get hit.)
It's a simple story of the conservative base engaging while the Democratic base squabbles or sleeps.