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Hawaii GOP caucus voters matter for first time

By Treena Shapiro

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 04:59 a.m. HST, Mar 08, 2012


Voters in Hawaii's upcoming Republican presidential caucus have found themselves in an unusual position: They're relevant.

The change reflects a GOP effort to create enthusiasm for the party in a state where conservatives face long odds in November.

Hawaii is home turf for President Obama and the Democratic Party. But for the first time, everyday Republican voters in the Aloha State will have a say in their party's presidential nomination process.

"What we want to do is get more people involved in the system," Hawaii GOP chairman David Chang said. "We want that person to come out and vote. And then they'll realize that their vote will count because the results will ultimately determine which presidential candidate will get our delegates."

Republican caucuses in the past were drawn-out and largely informal affairs. Party members gathered in parks, businesses and homes to pick delegates to the state convention in a process that took about two weeks.

Votes for presidential candidates weren't even counted. The state's GOP presidential delegates were chosen at the state convention months later, and then they were free to vote for whomever they pleased.

Under the new system, individual votes for Republican candidates will be tallied on caucus day next Tuesday with 17 of the state's 20 delegates up for grabs.

Candidates will gain support in proportion to their vote totals. The other three are "superdelegates" who may vote for anyone at the national convention this summer.

Even with the changes, Republican officials expect a turnout of only about 6,000 voters, partly because voting will occur in just a two-hour window, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

None of the candidates — Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum — has visited Hawaii and none has a strong direct connection to the islands, further muting enthusiasm.

Romney's campaign is the most visible, though that's a relative term since none of the campaigns has drawn much attention. Romney's Mormon faith gives him a boost, thanks to the state's significant population of Latter-day Saints.

Matt Romney visited Oahu in December to rally support for his father's campaign, a stay that included a fundraiser in a largely Mormon North Shore community.

All four campaigns have faced the challenge of familiarizing voters with the new caucus process and convincing them their voices will matter. Campaign volunteers have needed to explain repeatedly that only ballots cast while caucuses are open will count — there is no absentee or mail-in voting.

Even if the caucus increases party interest, it's unlikely that in November Hawaii will vote for a Republican presidential candidate over Obama, who was born in Honolulu and grew up in the state. Also, Hawaii voters tend to support Democratic candidates. The state's governor, its entire congressional delegation and the overwhelming majority of state lawmakers are all Democrats.

Still, there is reason for the GOP to try to stir up its partisans this year — the party has its best chance of winning a U.S. Senate seat since Sen. Hiram Fong retired in 1977.

Former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle is seeking to replace 87-year-old Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka, who is retiring. Lingle was the state's first female governor and served two terms.

John Hart, chairman of Hawaii Pacific University's Communication Department, analyzes state politics. He's not sure whether the new caucus system will do much for the party.

"(The caucus) is a better way to market your product — Republicans," he said. "The question is whether that product sells in the islands."

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Changalang wrote:
No, they still don't matter. It is a cheap ploy to get people to pull a Hawaii GOP card to give the illusion that the Party is growing. To make matters worse, the Re-apportionment Commission is "supposed" to verify and vote on maps today. Will all those voting in the Hawaii GOP Primary be in same districts as the 2010 data they were forced to use while voting in a 2012 election event? What would Dylan and colleagues on the "technical committee" have to say about that? What about the FEC?
on March 8,2012 | 04:57AM
Manapua_Man wrote:
The GOP of today has always been about cheap ploys and cheap shots. The FOX News has proven this time after time.
on March 8,2012 | 05:21AM
Changalang wrote:
After this election cycle and crushing defeat in Hawaii, they will be forced to throw the baby out with the bath water to remain viable. Perhaps a burn down re-build will force political accountability for the party Hawaii loves to hate, Hawaii GOP. They need to learn a valuable lesson from the disingenuous accountability of Lingle's Auction Rate Security Scandal; $1.1 billion of our tax money lost in 2008 to Citi banksters is unforgivable, and the last straw. . . "Higa's draft report "outright accused of us of violating state law" by not selling the securities. The accountants from Accuity LLP repeatedly "would ask us all these questions (about the handling of the auction rate securities) that we thought we were addressing correctly," Kawamura said." (03MAR2010; Honolulu Advertiser)
on March 8,2012 | 05:38AM
Christopher_murp wrote:
This is a prime opportunity for all the people of Hawaii that want the government to be more fiscally responsible with our money. For some it may be an opportunity to show their support for a candidate that wants less government intrusion in their lives. For those that are content to allow someone else to manage their lives and dictate where the fruits of their labor should go, I advise them to continue to stay home and vote as their masters tell them to.
on March 8,2012 | 07:10AM
Changalang wrote:
It is a partisan "beauty contest" put on display by a local political party that is on life support. Reality showed that fiscal responsibility is the last thing the Hawaii GOP can brag about. . . "Nov 24 (Reuters) - Citigroup (C.N) will pay the U.S. state of Hawaii as much as $1.1 billion to settle a dispute over the state's purchase of auction rate securities that resulted in losses, Hawaii's attorney general said. Citi must pay as much as $869 million to buy some or all the remaining securities owned by Hawaii and cover losses for $200 million worth of securities that the state had liquidated in 2008, under the deal, which was announced on Tuesday. In June 2015, the state will have the option to require Citi to purchase some or all the remaning auction rate securities. The state has also released potential claims against Citi in connection with its investments in auction rate securities Auction rate debt has rates that reset in periodic auctions. The auction-rate market froze early in 2008 in the wake of a credit crunch that destroyed the top ratings of some insurance companies that insured much of the debt. Citi could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters.." (24NOV2010; Reuters) Hopefully Hawaii gets OUR money back in 2015.
on March 8,2012 | 08:55AM
AndrewWalden wrote:
Wrong. This is not a 'beauty contest'. The March 13 Hawaii Republican Caucuses are binding and directly determine proportional allocation of delegates to the presidential candidates. List of voting locations here: http://www.gophawaii.com/presidential-caucus-locations
on March 8,2012 | 09:32AM
Changalang wrote:
It is a de facto beauty contest because it is mathematically impossible for any distribution of Hawaii delegates to influence the National outcome. It is all Romney even in a brokered convention with NY CA and his possession of over 400 delegates of the 1146 after Super Tuesday. The impotence of the Hawaii GOP on the National stage is only minimized by its real world irrelevance on the local stage; unless it is about losing billion dollar cash flow to banksters. Lingle made everybody in Hawaii poorer and I want anybody who supports the den of thieves to pull a card and go on the record to separate the chaff from the wheat. Can't wait for the internal data breach. Enjoy the dog and pony show; more like mutt and nag, when the demographic breakdown is properly applied. Also, enjoy that new Democrat Senator that will be hailing from your beloved Big Island despite Nonaka's efforts on the Re-apportionment Commission. Time for you guys to pay the piper at the ballot box. You are a good journalist, but your partisan bias keeps you from being a great one.
on March 8,2012 | 10:26AM
Christopher_murp wrote:
I agree that some missteps were made by the previous governor's staff. However, if you compare what was done under the previous governor and the current governor, you will quickly find that spending has increased dramatically and that new programs have cropped up to take even more money. When will they stop taking our money for their pet projects? Government can't be everywhere and can't be everything to everyone. It is time to prioritize and reduce costs so that those who do pay taxes get to keep a little of what they earn and get to spend it in a manner that they choose.
on March 8,2012 | 11:33AM
Changalang wrote:
Umm, that is 1.2 billion dollars lost and properly cited. What other Governor used illegal investments to absolutely get nothing back for that kind of money? NOTHING BACK but pain for all the people. Ariyoshi left a surplus. Waihee spent it, but got something for it; and Cayetano rebuilt the economy after 09SEP2001. Lingle took OUR money and lost it. No comparison.
on March 8,2012 | 12:01PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
6000? Yeah, that'll happen.
on March 8,2012 | 09:59AM
AniMatsuri wrote:
As far as what this does locally for the GOP, as the article pointed out probaby nothing. But, it'll be interesting to see who gets the over all vote. The last time it was left to everyday Hawai'i GOP voters, we ended picking Pat Robertson which freaked out the local GOP which basically runs from moderate to RINO in its leanings.
on March 8,2012 | 10:03AM
Halemaumau wrote:
People of Hawaii b*tch and complain of all our problems in government and everything else yet forget that this state has for many decades been all democrats and their unions running this state. So how do you justify the corruption here, one or two GOP governors did it all. Wake up. We're screwed up because for decades the democrats thought and still think they know what they're doing but really don't have a clue. If any one is responsible for our sad state of affairs just look who the majority is.
on March 8,2012 | 07:15PM
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