WASHINGTON — Democrats Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard hold leads over their Republican opponents and appear likely to keep Hawaii’s congressional delegation blue for at least the next two years, according to The Civil Beat Poll.

Hanabusa’s edge over Charles Djou at this point in the 1st Congressional District race is five points, 49 percent to 44 percent, with 7 percent undecided. Gabbard, meanwhile, is solidly in the driver’s seat in the 2nd Congressional District with a 70-18 percent advantage over Kawika Crowley, with 12 percent undecided. The results are the first public opinion survey numbers released for both matchups since the nominees emerged from the Aug. 11 primary election.

The Hanabusa-Djou survey polled 856 likely voters for a margin of error of 3.3 percent, and the Gabbard-Crowley survey had 751 respondents for a margin of error of 3.8 percent. Both surveys were conducted between Sept. 26 and Sept. 28, concurrent with Civil Beat’s polls on the presidential race, the U.S. Senate race and the Honolulu mayor’s race.1

Though Hanabusa’s lead is in the single digits, barely larger than the margin of error and smaller than the number of undecideds in the contest, other variables in the contest point to a clear victory.

“I think Djou’s numbers are artificially inflated,” said Matt Fitch, executive director of Merriman River Group, which partners with Civil Beat on its polls. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see Hanabusa win by a very comfortable margin.”

Fitch said the U.S. Senate, Honolulu mayor and 2nd Congressional District contests have been getting the lion’s share of the attention, media and energy, so voters have given little thought to the Hanabusa-Djou rematch. She won the seat in 2010.

“People are more or less defaulting to where they were two years ago,” he said, a reference to Hanabusa’s 49.6-43.6 margin in 2010. “The difference this time is that Hanabusa has a more decided edge in fundraising and organization and last time Djou was the focus candidate for Hawaii Republicans, much more so than the governor’s race, for example. He was where the time, money and energy went to. There are lots of reasons to think that won’t be the case this time, so 44 percent might be a high-water mark for Djou.”

Furthermore, Djou was the incumbent in 2010, while Hanabusa is the incumbent now. Hawaii voters are generally loathe to fire their federal representatives; Djou’s loss was the first time in the state’s 50-plus-year history that a representative or senator asked to keep their job and was denied. And that came in a year where voters everywhere else in the country swept Republicans back into power.

Another key factor is that supporters of President Barack Obama — a huge group in Hawaii — would tend to favor Hanabusa. That same variable could play a role in the Honolulu mayor’s race as well, because Obama voters could help Kirk Caldwell close his 51-42 deficit against Ben Cayetano. That’s why Cayetano’s nine-point lead is potentially more precarious than Hanabusa’s five-point advantage, Fitch said.

“Caldwell has picked up most of (Mayor Peter) Carlisle’s support, and there’s a lot of reasons to think that he’s going to consolidate that even more,” he said.

“There’s a correlation between Hanabusa voters and Caldwell voters. I think both of them are going to do better because both of them probably have an organizational and financial edge for the last month,” Fitch said. “In both races, the incremental voters that maybe don’t usually vote but are going to come out to vote for president are going to be Obama-slash-Hanabusa-slash-Caldwell voters, and Cayetano and Djou both do better among casual voters who might or might not vote. That’s not to say Cayetano is going to lose, but it’s to say that nine points is not as secure as it sounds.”

The matchup-by-matchup cross-tabulations bear out that theory.

Obama’s supporters back Hanabusa over Djou by a 76-18 percent clip, while supporters of Republican Mitt Romney back Djou, 94-4. Similarly, Caldwell supporters back Hanabusa, 62 percent to 35 percent for Djou, while Cayetano supporters back Djou, 54 percent to 40 percent. The 1st Congressional District makes up about 70 percent of Oahu’s population.

Djou’s biggest support bloc is made up of voters who subscribe to conservative economic theory.

Sixty-nine percent of Djou voters have a negative view of the economy; a plurality (46 percent) believe in across-the-board rather than targeted spending cuts; and a narrow plurality (34 percent) say a deficit-reduction plan should include no taxes, even for those with high incomes. Those response rates are not quite as conservative as those from Romney supporters in Hawaii, but it’s moving in the same direction. And most Hawaii voters disagree with those approaches to fixing the economy.

Finally, Fitch doesn’t think the fact that Djou is down just five points in The Civil Beat Poll while former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle is down 16 percent in the U.S. Senate race makes him a likelier target than her for mainland Republican support (read: money).

“Really, one more Republican congressman would be nice, but one more Republican senator may flip the Senate, so I doubt that,” he said. The Democrat-controlled Senate is thought to be in play this year for the GOP, while the Republican-controlled House is considered secure.

That’s because many seats will be staying put. Voters need look no further for an example than rural Oahu and the neighbor islands, where the seat being vacated by outgoing Rep. Mazie Hirono is likely to remain blue.

Gabbard’s commanding lead over the little-known and lightly funded Crowley in the 2nd Congressional District means she is likely to prevail in November and will have the chance to establish herself as a rising star in Washington, D.C.

Her primary election matchup against former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann was thought to be her tallest hurdle this year. Even though she ended up winning that contest by 20 percent, the original thinking that the winner of the primary would cruise to general election victory appears to be intact.

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