Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 23, 2010

GOP FINALLY WINS A HOUSE SPECIAL ELECTION.... Since President Obama's nomination, Democrats had gone seven for seven in special elections to the U.S. House, including wins in some traditionally "red" congressional districts. Yesterday, the streak came to an end, but the GOP's success comes with an asterisk.

A Republican candidate has prevailed over a crowded special election to represent President Obama's Hawaiian birthplace in the House of Representatives. The victory of Charles Djou, a Honolulu city councilman, was not a surprise, but it served to bolster his party as it seeks to chip away at the Democratic majority.

The special election was called after Representative Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, announced last year that he would resign before completing his 10th term in order to focus on his candidacy for governor.

Mr. Djou beat out 13 other candidates with 39.5 percent of the vote in Hawaii's First Congressional District, which encompasses the Honolulu metropolitan area and gave Mr. Obama 70 percent of its vote in 2008.

In a statement, RNC Chairman Michel Steele said Djou's win is "evidence his conservative message ... knows no party lines."

It was a half-hearted boast because no one, not even Steele, seriously believes the special election was a legitimate Republican triumph. Hawaii's 1st is a heavily Democratic district, which would have stayed "blue" had this been a traditional match-up of one Dem vs. one Republican.

But it wasn't. There was no primary, and two credible Dems -- State Senate president Colleen Hanabusa and former Rep. Ed Case -- were both on the ballot. Party leaders hoped to force one from the field, but personality conflicts and lingering hard feelings from a previous cycle made that impossible. The DCCC, realizing that the two candidates would inevitably split the Democratic vote, gave up on the contest altogether weeks ago.

On its face, it's silly when partisans argue that the only races that count are the ones they win, but in this case, the Dems' argument has merit. Unlike Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts, the Hawaii special election is impossible to interpret as some kind of important GOP coup. The only real lesson here is that a party that has two credible candidates on the ballot at the same time is almost certainly going to lose.

Looking ahead, count on Hawaii's 1st being near the top of the Democrats' list of midterm pick-up opportunities.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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It is true that "All politics is local," and this election had enough intrigue, bad blood, and political vendettas to warrant another Godfather film.

Steele gave us his predictable blather; can Sister Sarah be far behind? As we have come to learn, facts cannot stand in the way of a good sound bite. . .

Posted by: DAY on May 23, 2010 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

Even Godless volcano heathens from a state that doesn't really count as even being American are starting to "get" it. And people thought Michael Steele was crazy for trying to hold the RNC convention in Hawaii. God bless that man, he's a genius.

Posted by: oh my on May 23, 2010 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, my snark is a little overactive this morning as I haven't taken my riddlin doused with caffeine yet.

Posted by: oh my on May 23, 2010 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

This is a pretty lame explanation of what actually went down in HI 1

What REALLY happened is that Hanabusa, you know the candidate that got the most votes on the Dem side, was the perferred candidate locally and from the congressional delegation out of Hawaii but the Dem apparatus decided to go against the will of the people and promote Ed Case for no good reason at all. The DCCC wasn't backing either or, they put ALL of their muscle behind Case trying to force Hanubasa out and she showed her mettle, stayed in the race, and STILL out performed him. I have strong suspiciouns that Case was pushed because he isn't as progressive as Hanubasa but I really really hope Im wrong. Either way, Djou doesn't win if the DCCC had just kept their damn nose out of the race. Even though the Dems will probably win the seat back in November the DCCC should be getting raked over the coals for what they did there.

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla on May 23, 2010 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with sgwhiteinfla that Steve's missed the real story here. It was the DCCC's interference that cost democrats this seat, however temporarily.

Posted by: An American in Exile on May 23, 2010 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

"It was a half-hearted boast because no one, not even Steele, seriously believes the special election was a legitimate Republican triumph"

Except for Faux News . I was at the Gym this morning with the bank of TEEVEES . A minor note on most of the am news . Faux nooze not so much
The usual collection of asshats treating it as THE IMPORTANT STORY OF THE DAY....see we showed them, Obama is on his way out.

We report what we want.You have your mind made up by us.

Posted by: johnr on May 23, 2010 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sure the Sunday morning shows will tell us what it all means, with thoughtful analysis by Newt, Sarah, Rudi, Karl, Cheney1, Cheney2, ...

Posted by: qwerty on May 23, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

If this win has an asterisk by it, then it only seems fair that NY-23 has an asterisk, too. Or is that different in a way I'm not understanding?

Posted by: BattleCobra90000 on May 23, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

The stupidity and selfishness of those Democratic candidates, or at least one of them, knows no bounds. They both knew neither could win, and one - maybe the latest comer, maybe the one who knew he or she was weakest in polls - should have withdrawn, knowing things would be no worse in the end. It's pathetic.

Posted by: neil b on May 23, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Well, reading the comments better I see that ordinary pigheadedness wasn't the problem after all.

Posted by: neil b. on May 23, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

@Neil B, I agree that one of the Dem candidates should have withdrawn, but be aware that Hanabusa, the one who supposedly was weaker in the polls according to the DCCC, actually finished AHEAD of Case. That's just further, powerful support for the view that the real problem was the DCCC propping up Case and trying to force out Hanbusa.

Posted by: An American in Exile on May 23, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

To answer BattleCobra90000, I would contend that the Dem split that caused the repub win in Hawaii was not ideological, while the repub split that caused the Dem win in NY-23 was. The Hawaii problem won't manifest itself anywhere else, while the NY problem likely will.

Posted by: Tim H on May 23, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

I no longer give the DCCC money. From what I've seen, they are idiots.

Posted by: GP on May 23, 2010 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

It's very interesting to note that Djou won an election in the district where Obama was "born" or so they say. (A certificate of birth isn't the same as a birth certificate).

Posted by: Donna on May 23, 2010 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Donna has the birther blues.

Posted by: daniel rotter on May 23, 2010 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Dems 58% combined, Repub 39%. In the Rs mind = Big Victory and repudiation of Obama.

Math challenged, much? I hope Djou enjoys his six months in office.

Posted by: Hannah on May 23, 2010 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Donna, don't you even know whether Djou won?
No grasp on either grammar or law. Unsurprising.

Posted by: Doug on May 23, 2010 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

Just as its pointed out that come Nov this seat will most likely go to a Democrat, the seats currently held by Rep Cao and Rep Owens in LA and NY respectively, both won in special elections, will go (most likely) back to the party that held them before. Cao, a GOPer, represents a heavily Democratic district in New Orleans (and largely African American), and Owens, a Democrat, repre- sents the large district that covers all of the very northern part of NY state. so special elections are really nothing special at all, except for when they happen. otherwise, come real election time things will revert to status quo again.

Posted by: breakspear on May 23, 2010 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, this short-lived win by Charles "Soup" Djou could be a blessing in disguise (short-lived in the sense that there will be another election for this seat later this year, but only between a Democrat and probably Djou).

Why a blessing?

"A Republican candidate has prevailed over a crowded special election to represent President Obama's HAWAIIAN BIRTHPLACE in the House of Representatives."

If right-wing "news" outlets play-up Djou's "win" like I expect they will, then they will highlight that President Obama was born in HAWAII, not in Kenya or anywhere else, which will create even more cognitive dissonance among the Birther Tea Party Republicans who get their "news" only from Faux "News" and other right-wing propagandist "news" outlets, probably causing their heads to explode and all the peas to spill out.

Posted by: The Oracle on May 24, 2010 at 3:06 AM | PERMALINK

Steve: "Looking ahead, count on Hawaii's 1st being near the top of the Democrats' list of midterm pick-up opportunities."

Except for one small fact, which I urge mainland Democrts to keep in mind as they plan the upcoming campaigns:

Since statehood was first achieved in 1959, Hawaii voters have never - not even once - voted a member of their congressional delegation out of office, regardless of party.

Rather, past members have either retired or sought another elective position. Two of them - Sen. Spark Matsunaga in 1990 and Congresswoman Patsy Mink in 2002 - died in office. But not one has ever been voted out of office.

Something to think about, eh?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on May 24, 2010 at 4:26 AM | PERMALINK
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