Hawaii’s special election format presents unique challenges for Democrats. All candidates compete in a single election, with the winner taking the seat regardless of percentages. There are two high-profile Democrats in the race and one Republican, which raises the possibility of the Democrats splitting the vote and delivering the race to Charles Djou, the Republican.
This has led Democratic operatives to want to push one of the Democrats out and pave the way for a victory. However, they appear to have chosen the moderate LieberDem who is hated by the state political establishment.
Dem strategists have largely determined that ex-Rep. Ed Case (D) is the strongest candidate to run for the open House seat vacated by ex-Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D). Case polls better than state Senate Pres. Colleen Hanabusa (D), sources say, and he doesn’t carry the same baggage she has.
But Case has baggage of his own, especially among Dem voters. During his 2 terms in Congress, Case had a largely centrist record. He said he would have voted to give George W. Bush the option to go into Iraq, a position at odds with Abercrombie and the state’s 2 Dem senators. He voted for the PATRIOT Act and voiced support for the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
The DCCC is clearly lending support to Case, finding top-level advertising and polling strategists for him, on the grounds that Hanabusa… is a political insider. I’m not going to untangle that pretzel logic, but Reid Wilson in his story sees it as a trade-off between Case’s centrism and the political pragmatism that sees him as the only viable option. I don’t understand that a bit. Case has a slightly higher name ID than Hanabusa, but she has the support of both political legends in the state, the two Senators, as well as most labor unions, and she leads in fundraising. What’s more, the district is not moderate or centrist in any respect.
So far, the DCCC has only released one ad in the race, which you see above. It attacks Djou as a Norquistian anti-taxer. But the signs of the D-Trip’s sympathies are unmistakable, and I don’t see Hanabusa – or her legion of backers – acquiescing to the national Democrats’ strategy.
A few months ago, it was put to me that Case and Djou would split the center-right vote, with Hanabusa winning the majority. That could still happen – I wouldn’t be at all surprised with the DCCC misreading the electorate. But their bigfooting into races should definitely cause some worry (especially because they’d have a free shot to pick off Djou in November, if he manages a fluke victory).