The Dems' unforced error in Hawaii
Democrats are arguing that their loss of a House seat in Hawaii’s special election on Saturday is not really significant, since two Democrats were on the ballot, and, between them, those Democrats got 59 percent of the vote.
It’s true that the seat ought to be strongly Democratic, and that the Hawaii race did not have the same national significance as the Democrats’ special election victory earlier in the week in a conservative district in Pennsylvania. But this race probably bothers Democrats more than they are letting on – or at least it should.
For one thing, the party’s utter lack of discipline in failing to settle an internal feud in advance of the voting suggests that local Democrats put settling scores ahead of the interests of the national party – and those of the state’s favorite son, President Obama.
For another, it’s harder to defeat an incumbent House member than it is to hold a seat, as newly elected Rep. Charles Djou will try to do this fall. I can imagine Djou casting as many votes as he can with the Democrats to show that he is a moderate in tune with his very Democratic state. I can even imagine conservative Republicans giving him plenty of leeway to do this, since they know there is no room in Hawaii for a right-winger. And Democrats will have to expend more resources than they should have to on a seat that should never have been in play.
What happened in Hawaii does not change the fact that Democrats are in better shape than the catastrophist conventional wisdom had it before last Tuesday’s primaries. The new view settling in is closer to the truth: that Republicans can’t count on taking over the House, that the G.O.P. has a lot of work to do, and that Democrats have a reasonable chance of holding their losses to acceptable levels this fall. Nonetheless, Hawaii was an avoidable problem for Democrats, and it gave Republicans something to smile about during a week that brought them mostly frowns – and too much Rand Paul footage.
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