Posted: February 19, 2008 5:15 PM
Hawaii Democrats Expect Huge Turnout for Caucuses
Democratic officials in Hawaii are expecting a record turnout in Tuesday’s caucuses — which offer a rare chance for residents of the Pacific archipelago to influence the primary race and possibly support a native son’s campaign.
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was born in Honolulu in 1961 — just two years after Hawaii became the 50th state. In 1979, he graduated from its prestigious Punahou School (Home of the Buffanblu).
Even though Obama is the presumed favorite in the state’s Tuesday caucus, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton secured the support of the state’s most powerful Democratic lawmaker, U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, plus national committeeman Richard Port — both of whom are super delegates.
Nine-term Congressman Neil Abercrombie, who knew Obama when he was a child, has endorsed the Illinois senator, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Abercrombie warned fellow Democrats to expect long lines and some confusion at the precinct meetings.
“It is going to be a long night. He (Obama) is bringing in new voters. He is going to be the beneficiary of the new support, but still it is going to take time at the caucuses,” Abercrombie said, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
But ahead of Tuesday’s caucuses, there have been no polls of Hawaiian voters, and neither Clinton nor Obama campaigned in person in the islands — located some 2,400 miles west of California.
Instead, both candidates’ relatives have been stumping for them across the islands.
Chelsea Clinton spent three days in Hawaii campaigning on behalf of her mother.
“I don’t recall Hawaii ever getting this much political interest from any national candidate,” said Lisa Rosenlee, a political science professor who welcomed the former first daughter to her University of Hawaii West Oahu campus class last week, according to the AP.
On the island of Maui, Maya Soetoro-Ng asked about 200 people gathered at a luncheon to vote for her half brother, Obama.
“I want to emphasize my brother loves these islands. He loves these islands with every fiber of his being,” she said, according to the AP.
Hawaii’s caucus is usually held in March, and the state has never played a role in selecting the Democratic nominee, the Star-Bulletin reported. The caucus date was moved up this year, and the interest in Hawaii’s 20 proportionally awarded delegates is intense.
The 2004 presidential caucus in Hawaii drew about 4,000 Democrats, which was a big jump from the 1,200 who voted in the 2000 caucus.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign in Hawaii, told the Star-Bulletin she expects 6,000 to 8,000 Democrats to caucus.
Obama volunteers suggested that turnout could even climb into the 15,000 to 18,000 range, the Honolulu Advertiser reported.
“My cell phone bill has doubled, and my e-mails have tripled with inquiries about the caucuses,” Annelle Amaral, a Democratic official in Oahu, told the Chicago Tribune.
Ahead of the Aloha State’s caucuses, Sen. Clinton declined to make any predictions.
“I just hope to do as well as I can. I have no predictions to make. I have an uphill battle, and I understand it and I respect it,” Clinton told the Star-Bulletin.
At Obama’s alma mater, some students who aren’t old enough to vote formed a club that has handed out voter registration forms and distributed campaign literature on behalf of their famous alumnus, the AP reported.
“People on this island are definitely noticing. It does give him an edge in Hawaii,” said Kim Takinami, a 17-year-old member of Students for Barack Obama.
Hawaii’s first caucus tallies are expected to be announced sometime around 1:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, and the results will be made official when the all the ballots are recounted on March 1.