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Friday, August 3, 2012
NYT: Three Ingredients for Republican Victory in Hawaii
By Selected News Articles @ 6:07 PM :: 6356 Views :: Energy, Environment

NYT: In Blue Hawaii, Senate Race Offers a Bit of Suspense

NYT 538 Blog August 2, 2012 (excerpts)

...the Senate race in Hawaii ... is seen as competitive. The Cook Political Report rates the race a tossup, as does The New York Times....

Linda Lingle, a former Republican governor, is mounting a well-financed campaign for the seat held by Democratic Senator Daniel K. Akaka, who is retiring. Ms. Lingle’s opposition will be one of the two major Democratic candidates, Mazie Hirono or Ed Case, and will be determined in their primary election on Aug. 11....

How unusual would a victory in November be by Ms. Lingle? Hawaii’s last Republican senator was one of its first two; Senator Hiram Fong served from 1959, when Hawaii joined the union, until 1977....

The Hawaiian Senate contest is a useful lens through which to view the state’s political landscape. The state is somewhere between exceedingly and overwhelmingly Democratic. The Democratic Party has controlled Hawaiian politics for the most of the state’s history….

But every now and again, a Republican will win in Hawaii, including Ms. Lingle in 2002 and 2006. This is possible because in addition to being among the most Democratic states, Hawaii is also one of the most elastic states: when the political conditions are just right, independent voters are numerous enough that, along with just enough Republicans and conservative Democrats, they can combine to overcome the state’s leftward lean.

The Republicans generally need three ingredients to overcome the Democratic advantage in the Aloha State.

  1. First, they need lots of money. When Ms. Lingle was elected the state’s first female governor in 2002, she outspent her opponent by nearly a three-to-one margin. And so far in the 2012 campaign, Ms. Lingle has raised plenty of cash.
  2. Also, Republicans need a strong candidate. This is more difficult than it sounds, both Mr. Milner and Mr. Winer said, because promising young politicians will usually join the Democratic Party as the most likely route to electoral success.
  3. In states with a more balanced partisan makeup, money and a good candidate are often enough for victory, or at least a competitive race. But in Hawaii, a Republican will usually need something extra. “You need personality, money and some further catalyst,” Mr. Winer said, “Something has to go wrong with the Democrats.”

In 2002, when Ms. Lingle was first elected, the Democrats had plenty go wrong. Jeremy Harris, the Democratic mayor of Honolulu, was the preferred candidate to run against Ms. Lingle, and the field was kept mostly clear for him, Mr. Winer said. But after questions were raised about his fund-raising practices, Mr. Harris declined to run, leaving Democrats discombobulated. In addition, Democratic members of the Honolulu City Council had been convicted of taking bribes and misusing campaign funds. And a state senator pleaded guilty on tax evasion and campaign-finance abuse charges…. (You mean they were talking about Pay to Play back then too? What a coincidence!)

If Ms. Lingle does win, however, there could be a big reward for her: many decades in the Senate. Hawaii voters are often more deferential to incumbents than voters in other states. In 2004, when President George W. Bush was seeking re-election, Hawaii looked competitive enough that Vice President Dick Cheney flew 3,225 miles to campaign there just days before the election. The tendency to give incumbents the benefit of the doubt — whether as a patriotic by-product of the large military presence in Hawaii or evidence of the state’s many Japanese-American voters4 — is one reason that Hawaii has had just five senators in its 53-year history as a state. And of those five senators, none were ousted at the ballot box; four retired and one died.

read … Lingle Winning

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