Linda Lingle! You’ve just raised $1.8 million in 82 days! How do you feel?

“Humbled,” the Republican U.S. Senate candidate told reporters after a campaign appearance Wednesday in Kaneohe.

Humbled, maybe. Prepared to milk the fundraising success for all it’s worth? Absolutely.

Lingle’s campaign announced her fourth-quarter Federal Election Commission report early enough in the day to get the attention of a lot of the media. No State of the State address or State of the Union address to compete with for headlines.

Well before midday, Lingle’s big haul was the top breaking news on most Hawaii news outlets, including the website of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, where an ad for Lingle has been running in the top lefthand corner since she launched her campaign Oct. 11.

Nationally, the news made the political blogs and Capitol newsites, like this item in The Hill headlined, “Lingle posts huge fundraising quarter in Hawaii.”

Here at home, Lingle delivered a speech to the Kaneohe Business Group at the Pohai Nani Retirement Community auditorium. The talk, a routine campaign appearance, had been planned weeks in advance.

But reporters drove over the Pali and Likelike highways so they could interview Lingle about her good news. That meant the story would likely continue into the evening news and Thursday morning.

Pleased, Lingle’s media-savvy campaign team tweeted (@lingle2012, 1,937 followers) out the news about the news coverage:

@HawaiiNewsNow @KHONnews @StarAdvertiser @CivilBeat here covering @linda_lingle talking w/ Kaneohe small biz.

The tweet included a link to a photo, ow.ly/i/qHFQ. That’s me on the left, in the billowing, salmon-colored shirt.

Pole Leader

The fact that Lingle’s Senate campaign is as smooth an operation as her campaigns for governor is not news. Civil Beat reported on the slick rollout when she announced for Senate, for example.

What’s noteworthy is this campaign’s ability to gain enormous national attention and to out-position Democratic rivals.

Ed Case, for example, launched his first television advertising Monday, but it’s not clear many people noticed. All the talk was about Gov. Neil Abercrombie‘s State of the State address that same day.

Mazie Hirono, meantime, this week did what practically every other Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives did this past week — praise President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday and bemoan the resignation of Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona.

In a single stroke, Lingle refocused attention back on the Senate race in Hawaii.

Hirono’s campaign staff quickly issued statements tying Lingle to former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin; they lambasted Lingle’s “extensive national right-wing fundraising network.”

But, while Hirono was at least able to report her fourth-quarter take — one-third of Lingle’s — Case was still adding his up.

“Mazie and Linda only released their fundraising totals,” Case said in a statement. “Just where is their money coming from? From the mainland and DC PACs and special interests like so far? Or from the folks of Hawai’i where I’ve been spending my time?”

Lingle was already prepared to respond. She told reporters she was pleased that 44 percent of her contributions came from Hawaii, a larger percentage she said than Sens. Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka.

Inouye raised 43 percent of his individual contributions from people in Hawaii in his last election, according to the authoritative Influence Explorer website. Akaka raised 62 percent of his individual contribution from within Hawaii for the 2006 election, according to the same website.

Lingle did not take into account that both senators have been in Congress for decades and that longtime incumbents typically get a lot of mainland money. Defense contractors, for example, give big bucks to Inouye because he is chair of Senate Appropriations.

As for the Palin crack, Lingle called it an example of “Washington-style politics” and “an admission” that Hirono had no vision for Hawaii.

Lingle also said her eventual “Democrat” opponent would likely have mainland labor support during the general election, spending tens of millions of dollars on behalf of the nominee.

Lingle, a Republican, said she may not be able to raise the $8-10 million she thought would be needed to win the race — “that might be a little bit high.” She also said she would speak out against any super PAC ads on her behalf that she disagreed with.

“A truthful ad but hard hitting is OK, but false ads on either side — candidates should stand up for the people and say, ‘That’s not right,'” she said.

Honing Bipartisan Theme

During her talk to the Kaneohe Business Group, Lingle sharpened her argument on why Hawaii needs a Republican like her in the Senate.

Because control of the Senate can switch depending on the mood of the electorate nationwide, it is best for Hawaii to have “a foot in both camps,” she said.

Lingle also called the presidential election, in which a Hawaii-born incumbent is running for re-election, and the Hawaii Senate race “two very separate races.” Presidents of either party come and go, she explained, but a senator can be in office for a generation or longer.

“We have to do what is in our interest, not in some politician’s of either party,” she said.

Lingle told the business group that she will not work for Obama or a President Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich, nor any party leader, but for the people of Hawaii — a line sure to be repeated many times in the months leading up to November.

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