Today, I would like to head west to the Oregon and Hawaii races. In Hawaii, popular Republican Governor Linda Lingle is term-limited. Although there was speculation as to her political aspirations, it will most likely be a waiting game. Most pundits agree that her successor will be Neal Ambercrombie, a Democrat (+16 in recent polls), Lingle is a rising star in the Republican Party. There is no doubt that Hawaii is a blue state- Elvis got it right in more ways than one. Yet, Lingle's popularity underscores her rising star status.
In the Senate contest this year, John Rocco has the unenviable task of running against incumbent Daniel Inouye who leads by 48 points. But there is a twist. Inouye, after the death of Byrd, is the longest serving Senator now and with that title comes concerns of his health and age. Not to place great emphasis on this, but the possibility that there may be a vacancy in the next six years rises proportionately. Meanwhile, Hawaii's other Senator- Akaka- might be a better target for future take down by Lingle. Putting Lingle up against Inouye would have been suicidal.
That leaves the two Congressional districts where Mazie Hirono (a Democrat) is expected to win easily. Charles Djou is the Republican incumbent in the 1st District that was vacated by Ambercrombie. He won after a special open election winning 40% of the vote against 4 other Republicans and five Democrats. One of those Democrats, Colleen Hirabusa, will be his opponent in November. Realistically, this is a Democratic district and other than Djou slipping through in May, has not sent a Republican to Congress in 20 years. Surprisingly, Djou leads by a little more than 3 points in recent polling indicating a tough fight. Should he prevail, then it is icing on the Republican cake. The GOP has basically conceded the district, counting it among one of three definite losses this year. And when push comes to shove, I really believe the Democrats will prevail here.
In Oregon, Republican Chris Dudley and Democrat John Kitzhaber are basically even in the Governor's race. Oregon is basically a blue state and chances of Republicans to win a statewide race requires them to be moderate, if not moderately liberal. In a state where half the population lives along the liberal coast and where the only Republican Congressional district covers perhaps half the land mass of the state, Republican chances are not that great in Oregon.
That is why incumbent Democratic Senator Ron Wyden leads his opponent, a qualified Jum Huffman, by more than 15 points in recent polling and should win re-election. Although there are dynamics in Oregon that separate them from California to the south and Washington to the north where Republican Senatorial candidates are giving fits to Democratic incumbents, that is not the case in Oregon. Its also indictaive of the stranglehold along the coast by Democrats and liberals.
In Congress, the count is 4-1 Democrat with the lone Republican representing that vast, sparesely populated 2nd District. Whether the census will award Oregon an additional seat in 2012 remains to be seen. Whether reapportionment affects the boundaries of the 2nd District also remains to be seen. That makes the Governor's race that much more important.
Only in the 5th district do Republicans sense any seat pick-up in this state. Incumbent Kurt Schrader faces a tough fight from Scott Bruun, but maintains an 8-point lead over his Republican challenger. Past support for Schrader has not been exceptional and support for Obama over McCain in 2008 was only an 11-point advantage. That may seem like a lot, but this is a Democratic district indicating there were some questions there in 2008. These factors, along with the fact that Oregonians overall view the economy in less favorable terms than the national average (according to Gallup's State of the States report), it may create the perfect storm leading to Schrader's demise. If Schrader wins, it should be close. At worst, it will still be 4-1 for the Democrats.
As I noted previously, anyone from Oregon or Hawaii, please respond for your particular take on events and the mood in your state. Tomorrow: Idaho, Iowa, and Kansas.