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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dems prepare to dance with Djou

By Lee Cataluna

The ads paid for by the national party asked Hawai'i voters to cast their ballots for a Democrat, and most did just that. While Republican Charles Djou got 67,610 votes, more than 100,000 people voted for a Democrat. Maybe the party bigwigs should have been more specific.

There isn't going to be a unity breakfast after this one. There isn't much hope for unity. The grudge between Dan Inouye and Ed Case will go on, each side refusing to back down, in an epic enmity like Mufi Hannemann versus Neil Abercrombie, but much more destructive. No unity breakfast could heal those wounds, no matter what sorts of fancy toppings are offered at the waffle station.

Charles Djou, who would have come off as awkward and forced in any normal campaign, seemed smooth as silk in comparison to the Democratic catfight. Djou, fine in short soundbites from the steps of Honolulu Hale, was suddenly grinning like a nervous pageant contestant and pointing like Travolta in a "Saturday Night Fever" dance number. Even his roadside sign-waving featured dorky choreography: Shaka-shaka-POINT! Shaka-shaka-POINT! As if to say, "Howzit, howzit, YOU! I'm shaka-ing YOU!" Surprising nobody drove off the road to avoid the shooting shakas.

Against a more polished and self-assured Democrat like Hannemann, Djou would have come off like a dweeb, but compared with "only in it to serve the old guard" Hanabusa and "only in it to serve myself" Case, Djou's gawkiness was earnest. His trying-too-hard felt like sincere effort, not desperation.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are in bad shape when Inouye's candidate is taking her second place finish as a victory:

"From the volunteers' standpoint, it's a win," Hanabusa said on Saturday night. "You have to think about what they and this campaign have had to deal with in terms of the adversity, the naysayers and everyone else who came in and said we didn't have a chance. We come in second even despite that."

But second place doesn't go to Washington. Second place stays home and plots against third place.

Inouye said he is confident a Democrat will win the seat in the November election, but Djou is a smart guy who isn't about to Bobby Jindal his big chance, and neither Hanabusa nor Case is likely to drop out.

So what's going to be different? Will Case supporters vote for Hanabusa in the general if she leads the ticket in September? Would Hanabusa play nice and throw her support to Case should he win the primary? Or would both of them rather see Djou keep the job than have the other go to D.C.? "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," as the saying goes, and for both Case and Hanabusa, that's shaka-shaka-pointing Djou.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172.