National Political Analysts Predict Hirono Will Win Hawaii Senate Race

Who will be Hawaii's next U.S. senator?

Mazie Hirono.

That's according to three respected national political analysis groups — the Cook Political Report, the Rothenberg Political Report and Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball, a website run by the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

Civil Beat contacted all three on Friday to see what they're thinking as the primary draws near.

After all, there's been a lot of recent activity in the Senate contest: the just-concluded debates between Hirono and Ed Case, her opponent in the Democratic primary; a Civil Beat poll that shows that race to be tied; the launching of a TV ad and a digital cable channel by Linda Lingle, the presumed Republican candidate in the general; and the tightening national election between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

The analysis from all three groups: Hirono is still on track to win both the primary and general.

Rothenberg and Sabato both say Hawaii still "leans left" in the Senate seat while Cook still rates the race as a "toss up." Each predicts that Hirono is a near lock to beat Case and to fend off Lingle, and that neither race will likely be close.

Reasons vary, but the main ones are that the debates are over and Hirono made no big gaffes ("She dodged a bullet," as one analyst put it). Case has no cash, the D.C. Democratic establishment is on Hirono's side and Obama was born here.

"Case's message seems to be resonating and making those inroads, but his biggest problem is money," said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor with Cook. "The question is when she eventually goes on air (with TV ads), can he be competitive? Right now, it doesn't necessarily appear that way."

"Certainly Lingle is the only Republican that they could get to make this race worth watching," said Jessica Taylor, a senior analyst with Rothenberg. "But when you look at the larger Senate landscape, where President Obama may not be the asset that he was four years ago in a lot of states, Hawaii is certainly not one of those because it is his birth state. He will do quite well, and that is a tough thing for Lingle to overcome."

"If this were an off-year race, Lingle would have a much better chance," said Sabato. "But President Obama will get 65-70 percent of the Hawaii vote and so it's really difficult to imagine Lingle winning that many Obama votes. That is a ton of Obama votes. It's very difficult to succeed under those circumstances."

Sabato added, "This is a coattail ticket year, when states that vote Democrat will vote that way from the courthouse to the White House."

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