The AP headline is “Republican gathering in Waikiki comes at a time of internal strife” — but the Republican National Committee is meeting in Honolulu January 27-30 in a world suddenly reshaped by Scott Brown’s paradigm-shattering victory in Massachusetts. AP’s headline writer can only dream.
For RNC Chairman Michael Steele, Brown’s victory couldn’t have come at a better time. Steele’s mission is to expand the reach of the Republican Party into districts and states generally considered Democrat strongholds. This is the opposite of the strategy of energizing the base which gave George W. Bush an exquisitely narrow victory in 2000 and a 2.4% margin of victory in 2004 — an election year which Ann Coulter and others have argued should have seen a Bush landslide.
“Red Invades Blue: Take Massachusetts,” read the Scott Brown “money bomb” website — which pulled in $1 million a day on the approach to the January 19 Senate special election. Steele’s strategy was given credibility by victories in last November’s Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races. But Republican victory in the most liberal state in the union is the kind of lightning bolt needed to seal the case.
Coming to Hawaii, Steele is looking for a second lightning bolt to once again shock what he sees as old, outdated ideas about political possibilities. A three-way special election on or about May 1 for Hawaii’s First Congressional District (CD1, urban Honolulu) pits Republican Honolulu councilman and Army Reserve officer Charles Djou against two Democrats — former CD2 Rep. Ed Case and Senate President Colleen Hanabusa. Speaking to a mix of local and national Republican activists at the “RNC island summit,” Steele said: “Why is the RNC going to Hawaii? Because we intend to win in Hawaii.”
Held in Barack Obama’s home district, the Hawaii CD1 will likely be the last special election before November 2. Just as Massachusetts elected Republican Governor Mitt Romney, Hawaii’s First Congressional District has voted Republican in every gubernatorial race since 1994. Bush won 47% of the district in 2004. Djou would be the first Republican to win the congressional seat since Rep. Pat Saiki left to run for Senate in 1990, making way for the election of Rep. Neil Abercrombie, dubbed “D-Hezbollah” by those who know his record. Abercrombie, who started his political career as a hippie transplant from Buffalo, is leaving Congress to challenge Republican Lt. Governor Duke Aiona in the gubernatorial race November 2.
Steele is getting support in return from blue-state Republicans. At the RNC summit Tuesday, Aiona said: “I don’t think he [Steele] gets enough credit for what has happened in the last few months on the national scene.”
Term limits prevent Hawaii’s Republican Governor Linda Lingle from running for reelection. Asked about her political plans, she said, “My future plans are to get Charles elected to Congress and Duke elected governor.” Pressed on the possibility of a Senate run beyond 2010, Lingle added, “It [is] a good time to take a break and gain some perspective. There are ways to serve outside politics. It doesn’t mean I’ll never run again — I might.”
In the wake of last November’s debacle in NY-23, a handful of the 168 RNC delegates are reportedly proposing a resolution demanding that Republican candidates pass a ten-point ideological test in order to receive party financial and technical support. Dubbing it a “purity test,” liberal media were quick to pick up the story.