2012 Senate Race Polls Mean Little

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - June 01, 2011
| Del.icio.us

Don’t look now, dear reader, but Hawaii’s election year 2012 has begun - a full year and a half before 2012 general election day.

Oh, I know, I know. If you’re like me, you are still shaking from election year 2010: the special 1st District congressional election, the Democrats’ hotly contested gubernatorial primary, the multi-candidate races for the remaining two years of Mufi Hannemann’s second term as mayor and Peter Carlisle’s fourth term as city prosecutor, and the spirited general election races for 1st District Congress and governor.

Then there was the endlessly repetitive, omnipresent political advertising that smothered us from that February day Neil Abercrombie announced he was resigning his congressional seat until the November general election.

Well, like it or not, ready or not, steel yourself because it’s back. First came the polls. As noted here last week, Daily Kos, the liberal blog, released one in March that showed - surprise - practically any Democrat beating Republican Linda Lingle in the 2012 race for the Senate seat currently held by Dan Akaka.

According to Daily Kos, they beat her handily. Former congressman Ed Case swamps Lingle by a 52-35 margin; current U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono beats her 52-40; the even currenter U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa puts her away 51-40, and former Mayor Hannemann dispatches Lingle 47-40.

That was enough for Case. Last week he announced his candidacy for the United States Senate. Overnight, it seemed, another poll leaked (or was leaked) to the press, this one done by SMS (for whom, nobody knows), a respected local polling firm. Case, Hannemann, Hanabusa and John Waihee were all pitted against Lingle; the first three beat her by almost identical margins, 50-35 or so. Waihee tied her 39-39.

So what does it all mean? Virtually nothing.

A horse race poll run 18 months prior to the election is a black-and-white snapshot of a decision Hawaii’s voters will make in color come Nov. 5, 2012. Color will come from grassroots organizations, endorsements, smart (and not so smart) advertising, unforeseen national and local events, and that most important element, money.

Should she decide to run, Lingle will certainly have money, as much or more than any of the Democrats interested in the race. She demonstrated her capacity to raise oodles of it in her 2006 re-election contest, and the bankrollers of the national Republican Party are as interested in picking up a seat in Hawaii’s congressional delegation in 2012 as they were in 2010, when they contributed staggering amounts to Charles Djou’s campaign.

Lingle’s current low numbers can be attributed, I think, not so much to her Hawaii brand of Republican politics but to her national party and the two-plus years of public mugging its congressional and media supporters have visited on Hawaii’s favorite son Barack Obama.

No, there’s not a Hawaii senatorial aspirant in sight who should take heart from spring 2011 poll numbers. But all the rest of us should take warning, hunker down and prepare for another year of campaign fatigue.

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