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Hawaii’s 1st District Becomes Unlikely Battleground

Since its inception, Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District has elected only one Republican to represent it in the U.S. House. But an upcoming special election for the seat is drawing national attention, as Democrats risk losing the seat and are being forced to spend money on defense.

Oh yeah, one other thing: This is Barack Obama’s birthplace.

So why are Democrats now in danger of losing this seat? Well, it’s really a perfect storm situation for Republicans:

*1. It’s a special election. *There’s much more room for the unexpected in a special election. In this case, voters will be asked to vote by mail next month to choose a successor to Democrat Neil Abercrombie, who resigned to pursue his gubernatorial bid.

2. The ballot features 14 candidates of all parties on a single ballot. This means that several Democrats could split Democratic support to such a degree that the top Republican actually emerges with the single largest vote share. In fact, two strong Democrats, former Rep. Ed Case and state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, are both seeking their party’s nomination, in addition to many other candidates of both parties.

*3. The Republicans have one strong candidate. *Republicans made clear at the start of this cycle that they were going to support Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou for the seat, and the party coalesced behind him, pooling its resources. Mitt Romney is among the GOP figures supporting Djou.

4. Democratic infighting. The Democrats are not only splitting the vote, their supporters are turning on each other. David Dayen over at Firedoglake writes that the AFL-CIO has dropped mailers in support of Hanabusa that bash Case.

The DCCC dropped more than $47,000 there last week opposing Djou. I wonder how much more money this race will sap from the parties. And once this special election ends, it’s not even over. There is a regularly scheduled election this year (for which Djou, Hanabusa and Case have filed) to choose a full-term successor who will begin his or her term in January 2011.

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