BY TIM SAHD – Just two-and-a-half months after winning his special election in HI-01, a new poll from Rep. Charles Djou’s (R) camp shows he starts the general election in a rather strong position. In the survey, Djou led state Senate Pres. Colleen Hanabusa (D) 50-42%.
The poll, which surveyed 400 LVs and was conducted by the Tarrance Group from 7/26-27, had a margin of error of +/- 4.9%.
In the May contest, Djou defeated Hanabusa 39-31%. But Dems believe that Djou’s victory in the all-party special — which also featured ex-Rep. Ed Case (D) — was an anomaly, and that in a one-on-one matchup with Djou, Hanabusa will prevail in the strongly Dem CD. Case took a disappointing third in that contest, and later dropped plans for a general election primary run. That further emboldened Dems, as the specter of a costly primary would’ve dampened the party’s fall chances against Djou.

In fact, Dems are so high on the seat that, in a recent memo, the DCCC wrote that Dems would pick up at least four GOP-held seats, and Djou’s Dem-leaning CD was at the top of that list. But these survey results would cast a bit of a cloud over those predictions.

“According to the poll, Djou still enjoys a bit of a honeymoon from his 5/18 victory. Almost half (45%) of respondents believe Djou deserves re-election, while just 31% say they want a new person. And Djou rates a 58% approval rating, while just 18% disapprove of his job performance. (A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the disapproval number).”

Hanabusa is not without her advantages, and even GOPers expect the race to tighten. Pres. Obama took 70% in the district in ’08, and while Case aired special election TV ads that implied Obama endorsed his bid, Obama did not personally involve himself in that race.

Because this CD is Obama’s hometown, he likely remains very popular here, and an endorsement of Hanabusa would likely go very far.

She also has the full backing of the state’s Dem and labor machine, as well as that of EMILY’s List. So while she trailed Djou by nearly $150K in cash in the bank at the end of July, she should be able to make that up rather quickly.

But it’s exactly that “machine” that Djou — and Case — attacked in the special. GOPers say Djou is likely to continue to run as the outsider/independent in the general, giving him the opportunity to continue to bash Hanabusa as the insider.

Djou also believes he can pick up moderate supporters that Case attracted during his years in Congress and in the special.

But even as he crafts an outsider image, Djou will be forced to take tough votes. Dems have already attacked his votes against extending unemployment benefits. Djou, though, points to his support of ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as a sign that he will split with his party.

This race is at the top of the DCCC’s target list, and GOPers aren’t deluding themselves into thinking this is an easy pickup. But according to his own survey, Djou has at least begun his tricky re-election bid on the right foot.

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