Will Dems Lose Hawaii Senate Seat? Race Heats Up Before Obama’s Visit
by Huma Khan, ABC News (excerpted)
Republican Linda Lingle, a former two-term governor, has emerged as a formidable force, running neck and neck with Democratic contenders Rep. Mazie Hirono and Ed Case, a former congressman.
“If they’re losing Hawaii, they’re losing the Senate,” said Jennifer Duffy, a political analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “I think that it would be hard to lose Hawaii and not be losing three or more seats elsewhere.”
The Cook Political Report changed the race from a solid Democratic win to a toss-up when Lingle announced her candidacy last month.
Lingle left the governor’s house with an approval rating of 44 percent, lower than her previous ratings but still higher than the current job approval of Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
Hawaii may be a blue state but Lingle, whose gubernatorial term ended last December, enjoyed hefty support in her time as governor. She won two out of three governor’s races and is popular among independents, a key voting bloc.
“Hawaii is a really tough state for Republicans. At the same time Republicans have a candidate who has been successful statewide,” Duffy said. “If voters are angry at Washington, then I can certainly see them perhaps looking at her as somebody who might be more willing to come to D.C. and try and get some things done.”
Lingle has also won the support of some Democrats, who were upset with Case for challenging Akaka in the 2006 election. She will need to continue attracting swing voters – as she did eight years ago – to deliver a victory in 2012.
The former governor knows a few things about running in a state that’s light on conservatives. Lingle emphasized in her candidacy announcement that she wouldn’t be bound to either party when in Washington.
“I want to be real clear on this point: I don’t work for [Senate minority leader] Mitch McConnell and for that matter I don’t work for President Obama. I work for the people of Hawaii. And if there’s a law being proposed … if it’s good for Hawaii, I’m for it. If it’s not good for us, I’m against it, regardless of who introduces it.”
Lingle has already been pitted against the Democratic challengers before. She defeated Hirono in the 2002 gubernatorial race in which Case also ran for the Democratic candidacy.
The year 2012 is going to be a challenging one for Democrats, who lost key Senate seats to Republicans last year. Republicans picked up six Democratically controlled seats in 2010, including Obama’s Illinois Senate seat. Earlier that year, Scott Brown delivered a major blow to Democrats by winning the Massachusetts Senate seat that was occupied by liberal icon Ted Kennedy for nearly 47 years.
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