Democratic primary has benefit of boost in voter interest
More than 15,000 voters are expected to take part in the party's caucus Tuesday.
Seldom have presidential candidates showered so much attention on Hawaii as in this year's Democratic primary campaign. Though the state's party has just 29 of the more than 2,000 delegates Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton needs to lock in the nomination, the close race has both courting island voters who will take part in a caucus come Tuesday.
The candidate who wins here will add fresh claims to the nomination, but the neck-and-neck contest could leave the final selection to superdelegates, the 796 or so elected officials and party leaders whose choices aren't dictated by primary or caucus results.
With superdelegates holding close to 20 percent of the overall seats at the national convention, the image arises of a nominee chosen in smoke-filled rooms. However, party leaders have acknowledged that subverting the will of voters could encumber their candidate in the general election and quash new enthusiasm the primary has inspired, particularly among young people.
The vote will pit Obama's homegrown status and message of change against Clinton's potent institutional support, which includes Hawaii's senior senator, Daniel Inouye, and the Hawaii Government Employees Association. Obama has the backing of U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, but neither his House colleague, Mazie Hirono, nor Sen. Daniel Akaka -- all superdelegates -- have made public commitments.
Where in 2004, 5,000 people turned out for the Democratic caucus, more than 15,000 are expected to take part Tuesday. It is an encouraging sign in a state that has had chronic low voter interest in elections.
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