Hawaii Caucuses Actually Count

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - February 13, 2008
| Del.icio.us

“Who’d a thunk it?” my Pappy used to ask whenever the totally unexpected occurred. “Well who’d a thunk” that by Feb. 19, after the 22-state Super Duper Tuesday presidential primaries and caucuses of Feb. 5, Hawaii’s Democratic precinct caucuses will still count in the arithmetic of 2008 presidential politics.

But they do. They gloriously do. At next week’s precinct meetings, 20 of the state’s 29 delegates to the Democrats’ summer convention in Denver will be decided. Not very many, to be sure, but when - after Super Tuesday - less than 100 delegates separate the tal-lies of Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois (and Hawaii), every one of those 20 count big time.

And the Clinton and Obama campaigns know it: To whit, last week it was reported that Hawaii Senior Sen. Dan Inouye - for the first time in ages - is returning to take part in his state party precinct caucuses to cast his vote in support of the candidate he endorsed months ago - Hillary Clinton.

And the Obama campaign, knowing a fertile field when they see it, bought television time on Honolulu stations for the week leading up to next Tuesday night’s caucuses.

Local Obama campaign officials even spoke of getting the candidate - yes, the candidate - to the Islands for a rally. (They did so dreamily. It isn’t going to happen, not with the delegate-deep Ohio and Texas primaries just couple of weeks down the road.)

Obama folks feel they enjoy a distinct advantage. Their candidate is a native son of Hawaii, born and educated in the Islands. Obama’s sister, his grandmother, his niece and a slew of proud Punahou school-mates reside here.

And Hawaii residents have already indicated their overwhelming financial support for Obama - the Illinois senator has raised $411,253 in the Islands, almost seven times the $59,625 raised here by Sen. Clinton.

That said, there’s the female factor. Across the country, in all of the primaries and caucuses so far, Democratic women have supported Clinton. Here in Hawaii, the most prominent female in Hawaii Democratic politics - state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa - co-chairs Clinton’s Island campaign.

I, the hard-working journalist that I am, tested the support of local women for Clinton. In a wide-ranging canvas I conducted recently, I asked my 22-year-old daughter who she was supporting for president: “Obama,” she replied.

So I turned to my 64-year-old wife, seated at the other end of the sofa. “Who do you like for president?” She, a well-organized, highly competent (if high-strung), retired school-teacher, looked back at the irresponsible, marginally competent, totally disorganized male with whom she’s spent too many years, and said: “I’m for Clinton.”

I had a tie. So I hobbled back to my well-read mother-in law’s room. “Grandma, who’s your choice for president?” She didn’t blink an eye. “Obama,” she said.

The local boy certainly has an advantage going into next week’s caucuses. In 2004, some 4,000 Democrats attended them. This year the Hawaii Democratic chair estimates that more than double that number will show up - and most of the increase will likely be made up of Obama supporters.

How do you take part in the caucuses? Go to www.hawaiidemocrats.org (or call Democratic Party headquarters at 596-2980), look up the site of your precinct meeting, show up there at 6:30 on the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 19. If you’re not a member of the Democratic Party, they’ll sign you up on the spot. Then vote your preference: Clinton or Obama.

The other presidential news of the week was that Super Tuesday did decide the Republican nominee. John McCain won the big states, Mitt Romney dropped out 48 hours later, and it’s all over but the shouting.

McCain, come November, will face either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. And we in Hawaii will have a voice next Tuesday in which one it will be.

Ain’t it great?

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