The Fix: House Dems brace for special election

By Chris Cillizza
Wednesday, April 7, 2010; 9:46 AM

1. Fearful that a divided Democratic party could allow Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou (R) to emerge victorious in the May 22 all-party special election in Hawaii's 1st district, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has gone on television questioning the Republican's credibility on the jobs issue.

The ad, which was produced by David Dixon, calls Djou's record "troubling", noting that he "signed a pledge that protects tax breaks for companies who send jobs overseas. . . . Hawaii needs a congressman on our side," says the narrator.

(Worth noting: Using the word "congressman" in their ad suggests the DCCC may be sending a signal of support for former representative Ed Case over state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa -- the two Democratic candidates running -- although no formal endorsement has yet been issued.)

The DCCC ad is a sign of the growing concern among party insiders that the seat, which went for President Obama with 70(!) percent in 2008, is in serious jeopardy. Djou has been on television for several weeks with ads touting himself as a non-partisan problem solver while Democrats continue to litigate the Case-Hanabusa feud.

A loss in either the Hawaii special or the special election to replace late Rep. John Murtha (D) in Pennsylvania on May 18 would almost certainly be painted as an omen of a difficult midterm election for Democrats.

Conversely, if House Republicans can't pull off a win in either race -- that would make seven straight competitive special elections won by Democrats -- it's hard for the GOP to make the case that momentum is building behind the party.

Neither contest has drawn much national attention just yet but both have the potential to have wide-ranging consequences. It's just 41 days until the Pennsylvania race and 45 days until Hawaii. Mark your calendars.

2. Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk (R) will report raising $2.2 million in the first three months of this year, a staggeringly strong total that comes as his opponent in the Senate race -- state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) -- continues to weather negative stories about his family's troubled bank.

To date, Kirk has collected $6.6 million for the race and closed March with just over $3 million in the bank. Giannoulias's fundraising numbers for the first quarter of the year were not available at press time but as of Jan. 13 he had collected $3.6 million for the race and retained $963,000.

Both men won primary races on Feb. 2 although Giannoulias's was the more serious contest as he bested former Chicago inspector general David Hoffman 39 percent to 34 percent.

Since that win, however, Giannoulias has been hamstrung by Broadway Bank, a family-owned enterprise that is in dire financial straits. The latest story came on April 1 when the Chicago Tribune reported that the bank had loaned $20 million to two felons while Giannoulias served as a senior loan officer.

Kirk's outstanding fundraising and Giannoulias's struggles have made this a prime pickup opportunity for Republicans despite the fact that Illinois is not only one of the most Democratic states in the country but also President Obama's political backyard.

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