(Editor’s note: This POLITICO article is the DCCC fantasy version of how Djou beat Case. Appropriate commentary is included in parenthesis. And be sure to scroll down and look at Ed Case’s campaign email sent out this morning in which he assures: “Colleen’s goal was not to beat Charles” and “we can expect far more of the same as we enter the primary and general elections.”)
POLITICO: GOP threw gasoline on Hawaii fires
By ALEX ISENSTADT POLITICO.com
Six months ago, a bitter intra-party fight cost the GOP a House seat in an upstate New York special election.
As it turns out, House Republicans learned a few lessons from the experience. And on Saturday, they put some of that hard-won knowledge to work in Republican Charles Djou’s special election victory in Hawaii’s heavily Democratic 1st District.
While there were very few similarities between the two races—the New York race was marked by an ideological fight while the Hawaii contest turned on local personalities—the end result in both was that a fractured field cost each party control of a House seat.
In Saturday’s Hawaii special election, Washington Republicans explicitly attempted to fuel local Democratic Party discord surrounding the two top candidates, former Rep. Ed Case, the candidate whom the National Republican Congressional Committee and Democratic Congressional Committee alike determined posed the greatest threat to Djou in a three-way race, and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, who was the choice of the state Democratic establishment.
Mapping out their plan of attack in nightly Hawaii-focused 7:00 pm meetings, top NRCC brass sought ways to exploit the hard feelings that still remained from Case’s 2006 primary challenge to Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka—a move that rankles many Hawaii Democrats to this day.
(So it is the Republicans who got Inouye and Akaka all riled up over this. Perhaps the DCCC agrees with Ed Case's assessment of the Senators' mental faculties?)
In one instance Djou media advisor Ben Burger worked with NRCC officials to craft a 30-second TV ad that asserted Case missed many votes “while campaigning against Senator Akaka.”
(Is that all it took? The National Dems must really think Inouye and Akaka are senile.)
The Hawaii Republican Party, for its part, put out a mailer needling Case on “Integrity”—a not so-subtle jab at his 2006 Senate primary challenge, which Akaka and powerful senior Sen. Daniel Inouye insist took place despite a promise to them that he would not challenge Akaka.
Case contends that he responded at the time that he would not rule out a Senate run.
(Oh, of course. Any mention of Case’s lack of integrity = devious GOP meddling. And Dan Inouye is a plaything for the mighty Hawaii Republican Party. It all makes sense now. The last 56 years of Hawaii politics have just been a Republican ploy.)
John Peschong, a GOP strategist who is a veteran of Hawaii races, said the offensive bruised Case and left him unable to muster a solid base of support—Djou won Saturday 39 percent to 30 percent for Hanabusa, while Case finished third with 27 percent.
“The Republicans’ on-point messages combined with the bad blood between Case and Hanabusa that has existed since Case challenged Senator Daniel Akaka, never allowed Case to find his niche in this race, and therefore, he was never able to develop a base or a strong following,” said Peschong.
The other plank in the GOP’s anti-Case strategy: remind Democratic voters of Case’s apostasy on key issues.
(How dare they!)
Djou’s final TV ad sought to brand Case as an unreliable Democrat—a case that many of his Democratic critics had made before—noting that the former congressman had called himself an “Independent, now a strong Democrat, and even a conservative.”
“Hawaii just can’t trust Ed Case,” the ad ended ominously.
The NRCC, for its part, provided to reporters a steady stream of opposition research detailing his support for the PATRIOT Act, the Bush tax cuts, the Iraq war, and for holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The committee also highlighted that Case had attended meetings with conservatives during Social Security reform talks.
In an effort to fan liberal anger, NRCC operatives at one point tailored their efforts Case’s moderate record to left-leaning blogs that they believed would amplify their message to Democratic voters.
(Say it isn’t so!)
"We remembered all too vividly just what kind of impact the blogosphere had on the New York race—and in many cases the anger wasn't unwarranted,” explained one GOP strategist familiar with the party’s Hawaii effort. “There was definitely a sense in the room that if we could further inflame the ideological divide between the two candidates, we could return the favor and deny Case of the liberal coalition he needed to win."
In its effort to aide Djou, the NRCC and Republican National Committee adopted an wide-ranging—though almost entirely invisible—role. Party officials concluded that, with the Republican brand deeply unpopular in the heavily Democratic state, the national party needed to fly beneath the radar.
(And so nobody in Hawaii was told the NRCC was involved? Only a DC-based journo could write that with a straight face.)
Party officials determined what while they would not air TV ads in the district—saving the heavy spending for the party’s ultimately failed effort to win a Pennsylvania special election race earlier in the week—they would dispatch NRCC and RNC officials to coordinate GOP voter identification and mobilization drives that had never before been conducted in Hawaii.
(Grassroots groundwork. More Republican deviousness!)
The NRCC, which spent over $30,000 on polling in the race, led daily campaign calls to coordinate Djou’s message, while the RNC housed a get out the vote call center from its D.C. headquarters, which made at least 20,000 calls into Hawaii, despite the six-hour time difference.
House GOP leaders, meanwhile, directed $115,000 in member donations to Djou’s campaign and the NRCC helped to oversee a political action committee fundraising effort that netted over $100,000 for the Hawaii Republican.
“This race was not a slam dunk,” said the GOP strategist. “The goal from the outset was to fan the flames on the liberal left and provide a direct line of attack for Hanabusa to level against Case while strengthening Charles’ position with Republicans and moderates. Charles and his team deserve all the credit.”
(See, Hawaii Democrats couldn’t come up with their own reasons to attack Case, so the devious Republicans had to invent them for Dan Inouye and Co to use.)
Despite the special election victory, Djou isn’t in the clear. National Democrats pulled out of the race earlier in the month after concluding that with Case and Hanabusa splitting the Democratic vote, Djou was likely to emerge as the winner.
And following his victory, Democrats in Hawaii and Washington were quick to note that in November, when Djou must run for a full term and Democrats will be united (sic) behind (sic) a single nominee after the September primary, (what are they smoking in DC?) the Republican will have a much more difficult time winning—Case and Hanabusa won 57 percent of the vote between them.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0510/37676_Page2.html#ixzz0oyseky1V
EMAIL SENT OUT BY ED CASE (underlining added)
"The Dark Side of Politics"
The result in Saturday's election was most attributable to around $1 million in false attack ads leveled at me in the closing weeks by both of my opponents and their supporters.
Charles Djou's main goal was of course to win against the candidate he viewed as his real threat. But it was also to push me below Colleen Hanabusa in the hope that she rather than me will be his opponent in November's general election.
Colleen's goal, as confirmed election night by her campaign manager, was not to beat Charles but to finish second. This was so she could claim entitlement to the primary nomination, although my candidacy is the stronger one against Charles in the general.
Both achieved their goals. But how?
Here are two amazingly frank post-election articles describing how Charles and the national Republicans went about it and why:
-From Politico out of D.C.: GOP Threw Gasoline On Hawaii Fires. "Washington Republicans explicitly attempted to fuel local Democratic Party discord."
-From the Independent Women's Voice, the conservative D.C. group which alone spent around $250,000 on attack ads: In Hawaii's first congressional district, not only did Charles Djou win, Ed Case came in third. See especially this executive summary of the survey IWV commissioned on which it based its attacks.
These articles outline the dark side of politics: negative D.C.-style attack politics are widely decried but too often work, as they certainly did here. And they are forgotten or forgiven or explained away as "just politics" once the results are in. As a result, unfortunately we can expect far more of the same as we enter the primary and general elections.