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Thursday, October 13, 2011
Cook: Hawaii Senate Race a toss-up
By Selected News Articles @ 7:06 PM :: 6159 Views :: Energy, Environment, National News, Ethics

From Cook Political Report Oct 13, 2011

Cook Senior Editor Jeff Duffy writes: The 23 Democratic-held Senate seats on the ballot next year provide Republicans with a target-rich environment of races in GOP-leaning and swing states. Solidly blue Hawaii should not be a likely candidate for a spot on that list of targets. But, Republicans have managed to recruit the one GOP candidate who can make this race competitive. And, with former Gov. Linda Lingle’s announcement this week that she would run for the seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Dan Akaka, this race moves from the Solid Democratic column to Toss Up.

In her announcement and in a series of media interviews Tuesday, Lingle focused on the need to create jobs and work toward economic recovery. She is very cognizant that President Obama will be on the ballot and worked to strike a balance, saying that she has supported some of his policies and has opposed others. She does not believe that he has done enough, or the right things to improve the economy….In addition, Lingle also stressed that her time as Governor would serve her well in the Senate. She told an audience in August, “Governors bring a particularly different approach in the United States Senate than those people who have come just from the legislative side. … They are less ideological. They are more practical. They are more agenda driven. They are able to put forth something they’d like to achieve and then move to do it because as governor you have to. You can’t hide behind a lot of other people.” She added that bipartisanship is the only way to move the country forward. Finally, she was careful to praise Akaka for his service to the state, noting that he embodies the spirit of aloha.

A Case-Hirono race will be one of contrasts that will pit Case’s more moderate views against Hirono’s more liberal positions and voting record. Case is also making an electability argument, pointing out that Hirono has already lost to Lingle once and her candidacy offers voters little more than the status quo. He argues that if voters want change, they are more likely to vote for Lingle if Hirono is the Democratic nominee. Based on recent history, the primary will be a hard-fought affair. A Ward Research poll (May 4-10 of 403 likely Democratic primary voters) showed a statistical tie with Case ahead of Hirono, 26 percent to 25 percent. ….While Democrats would undoubtedly prefer to anoint a nominee, nothing suggests that Case can be coaxed into dropping his bid. The fact that Hawaii holds its primary late in the cycle – it will be on August 11 next year – means that the nominee will have little time to regroup for the general election.

While Lingle’s numbers aren’t stellar in either survey, they also don’t reflect the reality of where this race is headed. Just about every two-term Governor leaves office much less popular than they were in their first term. Given the economic downturn, it’s not surprising that Lingle’s numbers have taken a significant hit. At the same time, nearly all former Governors recover in voters’ eyes, and we suspect that Lingle will as well.

All in all, Lingle is a solid campaigner and fundraiser with a record of accomplishment on which to run. She is the best candidate that Republicans could possibly hope for in a race in a solidly Democratic state. Whether she can overcome the challenges of running in a presidential year isn’t yet clear, but she will make this a race that Democrats hadn’t counted on having.

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Political Radar: Toss Up

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