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Gov. Linda Lingle confirmed yesterday that internal GOP polling reflected polls in Hawaii, including the statewide Honolulu Star-Bulletin/KITV4 poll, that showed Bush leading Kerry by 1 percentage point. With the race for president virtually tied in several states, Hawaii could tip the balance, Lingle said.
"Because we have such a small population, it is easy to overlook us, but not anymore. ... Everyone is predicting that it could come down to our state," Lingle said.
Hawaii has four electoral votes.
Democrats are equally excited about the sudden attention.
"The polls opened a lot of eyes; no vote is unimportant," said Brickwood Galuteria, Hawaii Democratic Party chairman.
Cheney is making a one-hour visit to Hawaii, flying in on Sunday night to attend a 10,000-person GOP rally at the Hawai'i Convention Center.
Gore and Kerry's daughter are scheduled to attend a concert at Farrington High School at 6 this evening.
The Cheney visit marks the first time that a candidate on the ticket for president has visited Hawaii since Richard Nixon campaigned in Hawaii in 1960.
Yesterday, Lingle said that a victory by Bush and Cheney would help Hawaii.
"If President Bush wins, Hawaii wins," Lingle said, adding that a GOP victory "would enhance my ability to get things Hawaii needs."
The GOP event at the convention center on Kalakaua Avenue is expected to start at 10 p.m. Sunday, and access will be limited to those holding tickets. Cheney is expected to speak at 11:10 p.m.
Lingle said tickets can be obtained at the GOP headquarters on Kapiolani Boulevard or at other GOP events.
"It will be a happening. The whole nation is focused on our state, and this is a very unique situation to be in," Lingle said. "We want everyone who wants to support the president and vice president to be a part of this event."
Cheney was in Hawaii in 1993 as the speaker for the GOP Lincoln Day dinner.
"We sold out the Coral Ballroom at the Hilton Hawaiian Village; he is very popular," said Miriam Hellreich, GOP national committeewoman.
The excitement of having national political figures barnstorming through Hawaii drew praise from both political parties.
Sen. Robert Bunda, state Senate president and a veteran Democrat, noted that the visits by Kerry's daughter, Gore and Cheney will "bring out more voters."
Galuteria agreed, saying that "wherever the vice president shows up, it energizes the base."
But, Galuteria added, the race is still 50-50, and Alexandra Kerry is expected to attract younger voters, who, according to the Star-Bulletin/KITV4 poll, are more likely to vote for Kerry.
Some voters said yesterday that a visit by a presidential campaign surrogate could make a difference.
"It will have an effect," said Este Tabilang, an accountant. "Usually they don't come here, so it will have an impact.
"It depends what they have to say," she added.
Paul Tabilang, who works at Radio Shack, said: "It will bring more people here. All over the country, more people are registering to vote."
But Ann Yurick, a nurse, would rather see Bush or John Kerry themselves. "It is not about who appears for them. It has to come from the horse's mouth," she said.
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