GOP finally wins a House special election

GOP FINALLY WINS A HOUSE SPECIAL ELECTION…. Since President Obama’s nomination, Democrats had gone seven for seven in special elections to the U.S. House, including wins in some traditionally “red” congressional districts. Yesterday, the streak came to an end, but the GOP’s success comes with an asterisk.

A Republican candidate has prevailed over a crowded special election to represent President Obama’s Hawaiian birthplace in the House of Representatives. The victory of Charles Djou, a Honolulu city councilman, was not a surprise, but it served to bolster his party as it seeks to chip away at the Democratic majority.

The special election was called after Representative Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, announced last year that he would resign before completing his 10th term in order to focus on his candidacy for governor.

Mr. Djou beat out 13 other candidates with 39.5 percent of the vote in Hawaii’s First Congressional District, which encompasses the Honolulu metropolitan area and gave Mr. Obama 70 percent of its vote in 2008.

In a statement, RNC Chairman Michel Steele said Djou’s win is “evidence his conservative message … knows no party lines.”

It was a half-hearted boast because no one, not even Steele, seriously believes the special election was a legitimate Republican triumph. Hawaii’s 1st is a heavily Democratic district, which would have stayed “blue” had this been a traditional match-up of one Dem vs. one Republican.

But it wasn’t. There was no primary, and two credible Dems — State Senate president Colleen Hanabusa and former Rep. Ed Case — were both on the ballot. Party leaders hoped to force one from the field, but personality conflicts and lingering hard feelings from a previous cycle made that impossible. The DCCC, realizing that the two candidates would inevitably split the Democratic vote, gave up on the contest altogether weeks ago.

On its face, it’s silly when partisans argue that the only races that count are the ones they win, but in this case, the Dems’ argument has merit. Unlike Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, the Hawaii special election is impossible to interpret as some kind of important GOP coup. The only real lesson here is that a party that has two credible candidates on the ballot at the same time is almost certainly going to lose.

Looking ahead, count on Hawaii’s 1st being near the top of the Democrats’ list of midterm pick-up opportunities.