(Editor’s Note: This article is obviously planted in POLITICO by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to foster the illusion that Ed Case has it all wrapped up. It’s purpose it to echo Case’s assertion that he has mended fences with Inouye. We heard that same story before the Case vs Hanabusa showdown. Will Hawaii Democrats allow their choices to be dictated from Washington? Not likely.)
by MANU RAJU & JOHN BRESNAHAN, POLITICO
Sen. Daniel Inouye has long pulled the strings of Democratic politics in Hawaii, using his enormous political clout back home to push his preferred candidates all the way down to the local level.
But in the aftermath of a string of divisive intra-party squabbles, including one that temporarily cost his party a House seat, the Aloha State’s political titan has decided to take a step back.
As several potential candidates gear up to vie for the seat being vacated by Sen. Daniel Akaka, Inouye has quietly put out word in Democratic circles that he does not plan to get involved in the primary at all, fearing a nasty internal battle could bolster GOP chances to pick up a seat in the bluest state in the country and tip control of the Senate back to the Republicans.
In fact, Inouye appears ready to move past the bad blood between him and former Rep. Ed Case, telling Case at a recent meeting in his Honolulu office that he won’t use his political machine to muscle him out of the Senate primary. Case apologized for their recent feuds.
Inouye’s decision to stay out of the race is a sign of how Hawaiian politics is starting to change — where a new generation of Democrats is emerging after the senior senator dominated the islands’ political scene for the last half century.
“I’m a good Democrat, and I want to see a Democrat win that seat,” Inouye told POLITICO. “Although some may characterize me as a political boss, I am not a political boss.
“I will not force anyone to run for this or that, and I will not take sides in the primary,” he added. “This is for the voters to decide. If the people of Hawaii decide Ed Case is going to be the nominee, I’ll vote for him. But most importantly, we need a Democrat to replace Dan Akaka.”
It remains to be seen whether Inouye will lend more subtle support to a primary candidate – potentially by dispatching top aides and organizational support to a Democratic candidate – but his top aides insist he’s not planning on doing that. He’s been a prolific fundraiser, donating more than $800,000 to national and state parties in the last cycle, a remarkable feat at a time when Democrats were swept out of office and as he stood for his own reelection. He kicked in another $372,000 to fellow Democrats and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee through his political committee, DANPAC, according to federal records.
Without Inouye’s involvement, the candidates will have to fend for themselves in the primary. Early polls have shown Case in a slightly stronger position than his potential opponents, but the primary isn’t until August 2012 and much can change.
Hannemann said Case’s decision Sunday to enter the race “won’t scare off anyone.” Hirono said she’s taking a “careful” look at the race; Hanabusa said she hadn’t made a decision yet; and Schatz declined to comment. Virtually all of them have spoken to Inouye about a run.
Even though Democrats have a sizable registration advantage in Hawaii, both Republicans and Democrats agree that the GOP can prevail given the right formula: a nasty Democratic primary followed by a good campaign by a formidable GOP candidate. Republicans have their eyes on former Gov. Linda Lingle, who was the first Republican elected governor in four decades, and she has said she’d make a decision sometime this summer.
(BTW, now you know why Shinseki and Duckworth were floated by Inouye. Those names are distractions aimed to divert the DSCC from backing Case.)