Published March 13, 2012
HONOLULU – Almost lost in the fight for delegates in the southern states of Alabama and Mississippi is a Tuesday night caucus in the nation's most southern state: Hawaii.
It'll be the first time Hawaii's Republicans will go to the polls to determine the allocation for 17 of the state's 20 delegates.
"We want to use this opportunity to draw in new members of the Republican Party," State GOP Chairman David Chang told Fox News on Monday. He explained that in past years local party leaders would select the state's delegates to the national convention. "Even though we're a small state and the national scene may not pay attention to us [hopefully we can] get more people involved who wouldn't get involved."
None of the presidential candidates have travelled to the state in recent weeks preferring instead to campaign on the mainland. But three of the four campaigns are sending family surrogates to Hawaii.
Rick Santorum's daughter Elizabeth has multiple events scheduled for the next two days throughout Honolulu. Mitt Romney's son Matt also has events planned for the next two days including a stop on Oahu's North Shore in a town that is home to Brigham Young University's Hawaii campus. Last week, candidate Romney held a 30 minute conference call with Hawaiians asking them to support him with their votes on Tuesday.
Ronnie Paul, son of Ron Paul, kicked off a number of events over the weekend at a hotel on Waikiki Beach. In an interview with the Washington Times, Paul talked about his father's support from independent and Democrats. "It’s hard to gauge exactly, but we do know there’s a lot of Democrats here, we do know that our message is very appealing to the Democrat and independent persons, so how many of them will come vote for him, I don’t know that answer, but his message is very appealing to all persons."
Absent from the familial push is anyone from the Gingrich clan, but the candidate and his wife did make several appearances throughout Hawaii during a visit late last year. A Gingrich supporter in Hawaii tells Fox that the former speaker of the house recently sent a letter asking the state's Republicans for support.
Also missing from the Hawaii scene is a crush of media advertising. Only the Paul campaign has announced a media buy in the closing days and University of Hawaii Political Science Professor Neal Milner says there hasn't been much buzz about the race. "The default seems to be Romney," Milner offered as a tepid prediction for Tuesday's results. "In the absence of a vibrant more conservative movement...then you think Romney is going to pull it off."
The 17 delegates will be divided proportionally based on the overall voting percentages throughout the state. Polls will be open for two hours Tuesday night and a state party official says results should be complete around midnight local time. The state's remaining three super delegates will be free to support any candidate at the August convention.
Even with the added attention for the Republican contest, Chang didn't suggest Hawaii, a solidly Democratic state and proud home of President Obama, would likely become a target for a GOP pick-up in November. He did offer hope that Tuesday's caucus could carry organizational strength into November's senate contest for the seat now held by Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka who is not seeking another term.
Former Republican Governor Linda Lingle is mounting a strong campaign to win the race though she has not announced an endorsement in the presidential primary. Former Congressman Charles Djou is backing Romney.
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