After months and months of anticipation, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser is treating it like a done deal:
Former Gov. Linda Lingle is expected to announce as soon as today that she will run in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, sources say.
Lingle is scheduled to speak at a noon luncheon of the Sales and Marketing Executives International at the Pacific Club. The topic is how decisions made in Washington, D.C., can affect local businesses and the community.
U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and former U.S. Rep. Ed Case are the Democratic contenders to replace U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, who is not seeking another term next year.
I understand that Republicans are, superficially, excited about this race. I also realize that Beltway pundits have an incentive to try to make this contest seem competitive, since "exciting" always trumps "snoozefest" when selling papers. But the extreme difficulties the GOP faces in winning here cannot be overstated. Here are just a few of their obstacles:
- Lingle left office pretty unpopular after eight years, with a 41-56 job approval rating;
- 2010's massive red tide failed to wash up on Hawaii's shores: GOP Rep. Charles Djou was ousted by Colleen Hanabusa, Dem Neil Abercrombie won the gubernatorial race over then-Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona in a landslide, and on the local level, the Republican caucus in the state Senate was literally cut in half—from two seats to one! (though in fairness they did go from six to eight members in the state House);
- Native son Barack Obama will be on the top of the ticket next year—the same guy who won by 45 points in 2008.
What's more, the only two legitimate public polls of the race (taken earlier this year) showed Lingle not just losing, but getting crushed by double digits. A PPP survey in March ( taken for Daily Kos) had her losing to Rep. Mazie Hirono 52-40 and ex-Rep. Ed Case 52-35, while a Ward Research poll from May showed Hirono up 57-35 and Case up 54-36.
Now, it's been a while since those polls were taken, and the standing of Democrats nationwide has suffered since the spring. So I'd certainly like to see some fresher data—but Republicans haven't offered any. What's more, the structural factors I listed above simply haven't gone away and aren't even capable of going away. One more I can add to the list is that Hawaii's Democratic establishment is united up and down the line on behalf of Hirono, and the state's political godfather, Dan Inouye, even went on record saying he wants her to win the nomination over the Blue Dog Case. This determination to see Hirono to victory won't stop at the primary; if anything, Lingle's entry will push local Democrats to double their efforts.
Certainly Lingle's fundraising ability and name recognition will make this race more interesting than were the GOP to nominate a proverbial Some Dude. But "more interesting" doesn't mean "competitive," so don't believe the hype.