Isle campaigns seek lift from primaries
Caucuses: Obama camp expects no cake walk
Democratic supporters of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton are carefully watching today's primary election returns across the nation as they get ready for the Hawaii Democratic caucus on Feb. 19.
Andy Winer, Hawaii state director for the Obama campaign, said he sees the excitement of the Obama national campaign translate into increased interest in Hawaii.
"We want to increase turnout for the Hawaii caucuses. If we increase turnout by two or three times, it will be good for us," Winer said.
"Our supporters are new people. We have identified several thousand potential supporters and they are going to hear from us by phone or by mail or on the Internet," Winer promised.
Hawaii's Democratic caucus will be held two weeks from today at precinct locations across the state. Information about the meetings is available at the state Democratic Party Web page, www.hawaii- democrats.org/.
Caucuses differ from primaries. In Hawaii, the Democratic caucuses will start with a presidential preference poll from 7 to 7:30 p.m. The selection process is complex, with 30 pages of rules, but the process will be open to any registered voter. To vote you must also join the Democratic Party, which can be done on caucus night.
In Hawaii, Obama's opposition is both Clinton and some strong local supporters of the former first lady.
"Any Obama supporter who doesn't look over at Hillary Clinton's camp and see Sen. Dan Inouye and the HGEA (Hawaii Government Employees Association) and think we are just going to walk right in is sadly mistaken," Winer said. "They are formidable campaigners and they have networks and we are going to have to work extremely hard."
The Clinton camp, however, is acknowledging that Obama, because he was born in Hawaii and went to Punahou and played basketball for the high school, will resonate.
"I always felt he had an advantage in Hawaii by his associations," Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said. "He has been able to mobilize the youth, and, remember, only in Hawaii do people ask where you went to high school."
Randy Perreira, executive director of the HGEA, the state's largest government union, which is supporting Clinton, said the caucus will be difficult.
"Realistically, a lot depends on the mainland primaries, but we know there is a lot of sentiment for Senator Obama. He was born and to a great extent raised in Hawaii and he is a local favorite," Perreira acknowledged.
Still, Clinton supporters see the race between the two Democrats as coming down to the obvious differences. Clinton is a woman and Obama is half African American.
"The difference is gender. That is the one issue that clearly separates them. And that is no different than with the African-American vote," Hanabusa said.
Winer, however, said: "You feel there is a mass movement of people coming in Obama's direction."