Democrats are frustrated that they may lose a special House election on May 22 in the most unlikely of places — the Hawaii congressional district where President Obama was born in 1961 and which he won with an overwhelming 70% of the vote just a year and a half ago.
The rules for the special election for the seat vacated by Democrat Neil Abercrombie provide for a single election with no primaries. That means all candidates run on one ballot and the top vote-getter wins even if he or she only has a plurality.
Currently, polls how Republican Charles Djou, a member of Honolulu’s City Council, leading former Democratic Congressman Ed Case and State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tried valiantly to convince Ms. Hanabusa to drop out, but met resistance from Democratic U.S. Senators Dan Inouye and Dan Akaka, who are still furious at Mr. Case for daring to mount a primary challenge against Mr. Akaka in 2006.
After spending $243,000 in TV ads attacking Mr. Djou, the DCCC has apparently concluded the fusillade has not slowed his momentum. So the group has decided to conserve its resources and is pulling out of further ad campaigns. Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, says that the DCCC move amounts to “effectively ceding the race to the Republicans.” The thinking of key Democrats apparently is that should Mr. Djou win the special election this month, he will be much easier to defeat next November when he must run for a full two-year term against a single Democrat.
One of the factors boosting Mr. Djou’s chances has been a flood of independent expenditures that have eroded Mr. Case’s image as a “moderate” Democrat. Independent Women’s Voice, a conservative group, has been running ads noting that Mr. Case had voted to raise taxes 72 times and had received failing grades from anti-pork barrel spending groups such as the National Taxpayers Union.
A GOP victory in President Obama’s native state would be a psychological blow to Democrats, still reeling from their loss of Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts in January. For Democrats who were confident that passing health care would brighten the political atmosphere for them this fall, the forecast is for continued turbulence.
John Fund is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal