We've finally gotten confirmation of those Merriman polls showing Gov. Neil Abercrombie losing to state Sen. David Ige by double digits in Saturday's Democratic primary in Hawaii, and it sure ain't pretty for the incumbent. Ward Research, on behalf of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now, finds Ige mashing Abercrombie 54-36, an even more dramatic margin than the already considerable 51-41 drubbing Merriman saw Ige dishing out late last week.
As expected, Ige is doing particularly well with Republicans and independents, who can vote in Hawaii's open primary, but he's even beating Abercrombie 51-40 with Democrats, who make up the bulk of the electorate. Ward also tried to gain some insight into the mysterious question of why Abercrombie is faring so poorly, but it doesn't seem they've succeeded. When presented with a broad range of options to describe why they're voting for Ige, fully 46 percent of respondents said they "just do not like the other candidate"; the next-closest reason (Ige's "personality or style") was cited by only 14 percent. It's pretty damn hard to run a winning campaign when people "just don't like you," no further explanation offered.
And if the primary weren't crazy enough, the general election also has the possibility to go seriously sideways, albeit for entirely different reasons. Ward finds Republican Duke Aiona, who badly lost to Abercrombie four years ago, leading Ige 41-34 and Abercrombie 45-30. Either of these would be truly stunning outcomes, but they're only possible because former Democrat Mufi Hannemann, who lost in the 2010 primary, is running as an independent and takes 14-15 percent in both three-way matchups. Aiona also does unusually well with Democrats (a possible red flag), taking 25 percent against Ige and 31 percent against Abercrombie—both huge figures.
But with the Democratic nomination so unsettled, that probably makes it hard to get an accurate read on November. And the primary, fortunately, has not turned ugly, so hopefully the party will rally around the eventual winner. Indeed, Democrats may be better off if Ige prevails, simply because Abercrombie is so unpopular: His favorability rating is an awful 38-58, while Ige's is a stellar 57-15. Aiona's well-liked, too, though, at 63-24, but at least Mufi is under water at 39-49.
All in all, a nutty year in Hawaii politics is likely only to get nuttier. And given the oft-mentioned difficulties in polling the Aloha State, who even knows what the future holds. We always say that a hallmark of loserspeak is declaring that "the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day." But as Stephen Wolf wryly observes, if there's one state where that's actually true, it's Hawaii—so hang on to your butts, because we've got a long way to go yet.