Monday, August 4, 2014

Schatz vs. Hanabusa -- Down to the wire

screen shot of AARP forum on KHON2 TV
Colleen Hanabusa, Brian Schatz recent debate screen shot
Only in Hawaii would a challenger to a sitting incumbent be known as the insider, and a race between two seasoned politicians be seen as a fight between a dead senator and President Obama.

But that's apparently the case in the down-to-the-wire showdown between U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. Schatz, formerly lieutenant governor and an appointee of longtime Obama friend and supporter Neil Abercrombie, faces challenger Hanabusa in the Democratic primary Saturday in Hawaii.

It's a grudge match for Hanabusa, who viewed as a personal affront Abercrombie's 2012 appointment of Schatz over her despite an apparent deathbed request from the powerful U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye. Inouye's widow continues to endorse her.

(Abercrombie, it should be noted, is facing his own problems in his reelection bid, posed by fellow Democrat and state Sen. David Ige.)

"On Saturday, Hawaii brings a test of Mr. Obama’s pull in contested Democratic primaries," said a Wall Street Journal political post.

Obama is backing both Schatz and Abercrombie.

There's a lot of history there. Schatz endorsed Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. Inouye and Hanabusa backed Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Dueling polls show either Schatz or Hanabusa in the lead, and many predict it's going to be a close one. It's an important contest because it's just about a given that the real election in this race is the Democratic duel in the primary.

Hanabusa leads Schatz 50 percent to 42 percent, with 8 percent undecided in a July 21-29 Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll.

A Civil Beat poll July 24-28 of likely Democratic voters shows Schatz with a 49 percent to 41 percent edge on the congresswoman.

But what about those polls?

"Polling in Hawaii— and especially primary polling— is notoriously unreliable. And we don't mean off-by-a-few points unreliable. We mean often vastly different-from-the-final-result unreliable," said a Washington Post blogger in a The Fix posting titled " Hawaii: Where good polling goes to die."

It's trite but true, and it's become a mantra for several candidates these past few days: The only poll that really matters is the one the state tallies up on Election Day.