By far the biggest surprise entry on the list of battleground states is Hawaii. A bastion of labor union strength and one-party Democratic domination, it stunned even political insiders when two newspaper polls showed Bush in a virtual tie with Kerry. But the shock should not have been that great. Two years ago, Linda Lingle became the first Republican elected as governor in 40 years, benefiting from a voter backlash against corruption in the Democratic administration.
A former party chairman, Lingle has worked assiduously to expand the GOP's outreach to Asian and Hawaiian voters, who far outnumber whites. But there are other factors: The tourist-dependent island economy has benefited from Japan's recovery; this is one state where most voters say the country has moved in the right direction in the past four years. Active-duty and retired military like Bush and, it appears that Hawaii's preference for cable news meant its voters were exposed to more of the early anti-Kerry ads than most mainland residents -- ads that Kerry did not answer on cable.
At Lingle's urging, the Bush campaign invested modestly in TV spots tailored to the islands, forcing Kerry and the Democratic National Committee to make a late counter-move. When word leaked that Vice President Cheney would detour to Hawaii this weekend, the Democrats prevailed on Al Gore to make a similar last-minute appearance. In a state Bush lost by 19 percentage points in 2000, the Democrats probably awakened in time to stave off the threat. A Bush win here, while possible, would rank as one of the real upsets.
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D), a 50-year veteran of the House and Senate, is cruising to an eighth term over Cam Cavasso (R).