Despite the size of his loss, though, it's extremely hard to say what exactly caused Abercrombie to fall so far: Hawaii's economy has been strong, and he's never been accused of corruption. As community member Skaje put it, "his problems have a boring basis," including a polarizing governing style, fights with the legislature over the budget, and disputes with unions, some of whom decided to endorse Ige. Abercrombie began his tenure with mediocre approval ratings and never really tried to shore up his own image. Ige was able to capitalize on that broad but hard-to-define discontent, in a dramatic blowout.
The fight for the Senate, however, wound up the exact opposite. Polling had generally showed Sen. Brian Schatz leading his challenger, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, but because this is Hawaii, the numbers went haywire right at the very end. That made it very hard to predict what might happen, though the early results showed Schatz trailing narrowly. But in the wee hours, Schatz pulled ahead by a slim 1,635-vote margin—or just 7 tenths of a percent
To make things even more tense, voters in two precincts in the Puna district on the island of Hawaii (known as "the Big Island") were unable to cast ballots because roads became impassable after Tropical Storm Iselle struck on Friday. They'll have three more weeks to mail in their ballots, creating an extraordinary situation where campaigning may continue on past Election Day.
But despite the closeness of the results, the numbers look exceedingly grim for Hanabusa. There are only around 8,255 registered voters in the two missing Puna precincts, and even if every single one of them cast ballots, they'd have to go 60-40 for Hanabusa for her to squeak out a lead. That math is obviously absurd, considering that overall turnout on the Big Island was just 38 percent, and only around 32 percent of registered voters there participated in the Democratic primary for Senate.
Even if you imagine some frenzied get-out-the-vote effort that could somehow dramatically increase the participation rate, at least 1,500 voters probably already managed to vote early in the afflicted half of Puna, either by mail or at walk-up polling sites. That leaves maybe 6,700 voters still eligible. So even with, say, 60 percent turnout among that remaining segment, Hanabusa would need a 70-30 win. But she carried her single best precinct on the Big Island by 64-36, and in any event, the two other Puna precincts that were able to record votes went for Schatz 53-43. Unless there's some missing stash of votes out there, there's pretty much no way Hanabusa can pull this off.
Whoever wins the Senate nomination, though, will cruise in the November general election—but that's not so in the race for governor. Ige will face former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, who fell to Abercrombie in 2010 by 17 points, as well as former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, a conservative Democrat-turned-independent who was also beaten by Abercrombie last time around (albeit in the primary). Thanks to Hannemann peeling away 15 percent of the vote, a recent Ward Research poll showed Aiona out in front of Ige 41-34.
However, that same poll predicted Hanabusa would win by 8, and found Ige ahead by "only" 18 points, half his winning margin. Meanwhile, Merriman River, the only other firm with a recent poll, had Schatz up 8 and Ige up 10, so once again, Hawaii polling shows that it's not to be trusted. And if anything, Democrats may have caught a lucky break with Ige that hasn't yet shown up in the polls, given that he emerged quite popular after avoiding a contentious primary and lacks Abercrombie's negatives. Hannemann will still make life difficult, but demographics are in Ige's favor. As for any lingering name recognition gap, Ige may not have been universally known in Hawaii before this weekend, but you can bet he is now.