Can the GOP pick up a Senate seat in Hawaii?
Former Hawaian Governor Linda Lingle easily won the Republican Senate primary and will take on Democrat Mazie Hirono in November.
It will be a rematch of their 2002 gubernatorial contest that Lingle won and went on to serve 2 terms in the statehouse -- the first two term Republican governor in 40 years. This is what is giving Republicans hope that they can win the seat.
Lingle is popular and an excellent campaigner. She will be well funded -- as will Hirono -- and she has the best chance a GOP candidate has had to go to the Senate since 1970.
Hirono and Lingle will compete for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii). Their fight is a rematch of their 2002 gubernatorial contest where Hirono lost to Lingle, who went on to be the first two-term GOP governor of the state in 40 years.
The November matchup for Senate is expected to be a tough fight for Lingle. A poll from the Honolulu Star Advertiser last month showed Hirono with 58 percent support from likely voters to Lingle's 39. A Honolulu Civil Beat/MRG poll put Hirono up, but by a smaller margin of 5 points.
Lingle has won the support of key business groups in the state, as well as the Chamber of Commerce, but Democrats believe they will hold the edge on election day with native son President Obama on the ballot. Obama grabbed 72 percent of Hawaii's vote in 2008, his largest margin of victory in any state.
Hirono was also boosted with an endorsement from an unlikely corner: GOP Rep. Don Young (Alaska) backed her in a video last month.
Young's surprising endorsement of Hirono may have helped her in the primary, but probably won't play much of a role in the general election.
Lingle is used to being the underdog in heavily Democratic Hawaii. But Obama's coattails may be enough to drag Hirono across the finish line -- if the president receives the kind of support he got last time from Hawaians.
Even with those drawbacks, Lingle has a credible shot at scoring an upset. If so, a victory in Hawaii will go a long way toward securing a GOP majority in the Senate.