Where The Hawaii Senate Race Goes From Here08/13/2012
In the race for Hawaii's U.S. Senate seat, it's one person versus an entire party.
As evident in competing press availabilities Sunday morning, it can seem a pretty lopsided battle line.
There was Lingle at her Kalihi headquarters, surrounded by a small but loyal coterie, making her case that the race is about an experienced leader (i.e., Lingle) versus a Washington insider (i.e., Hirono). A former lieutenant governor was in attendance to show his support for his former boss.
Just a few hours earlier, however, Democrats gathered for their traditional unity breakfast at the Ala Moana Hotel before heading out on a statewide pep tour.
Theirs is a stunningly deep bench: a U.S. senator, two U.S. House members (one now running for Senate), one sitting governor, three former governors (one now running for Honolulu mayor), one sitting party chair, three former party chairs, the other leading candidate for Honolulu mayor and many of the winners — and some of the losers — of races for Honolulu City Council and the Hawaii Legislature.
The Democrats are united, as Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz put it, for an election that will be a "defining moment."
"What defines our party is our values, and they are going to be tested in this general election," he told party members. "We are going to see an unprecedented amount of money spent to somehow remake Linda Lingle's image into some kind of bipartisan problem solver."
Standing under a banner that read "Hawaii is Obama Country," Hirono, who snuffed out Ed Case's dream of being elected senator, argued that there was no way Hawaii voters would vote for the island-born president and also check Lingle's name on the ballot.
Hirono and others reiterated their commitment to entitlement programs that aid the elderly, the sick and the poor, and warned of a harsh budget cuts to come under a Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan administration.
If the GOP ticket is elected, warned U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, "We're in for a tough time ... We are the people's party, the other side is not."
But Lingle is the one local Republican who Democrats are truly concerned about.
The former governor and Maui mayor is arguably the most successful Republican in Hawaii politics, and she's betting that voters can make a distinction between a president who would have at best just one more term and a senator who could serve a generation.
"The stakes in this election are too high to allow this failure to continue," she said, referring to the status quo in Washington that she said Hirono is a part of. "The problems we face today in America, these are not Republican and they are not Democrat problems. These are American problems."