Hawaii Republicans helped Donald Trump continue his domination of the Republican presidential field Tuesday night.
UPDATE:The New York real estate magnate won the GOP presidential caucus in the islands. He took 43 percent of the vote.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was second with 32 percent, followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (13 percent) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (10 percent).
The state’s 19 GOP delegates will be awarded proportionally, but probably not until Friday at the earliest, when results are expected to be certified.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson were also on the Hawaii ballot, but they are no longer running.
Hawaii’s caucus coincided with contests in Michigan and Mississippi, where Trump prevailed, and Idaho, which Cruz won.
It was only the second time the GOP has held a Hawaii vote in the presidential primary process.
Despite blustery weather, turnout was heavy in many places. Some polling locations allowed people who were standing in line after polls closed at 8 p.m. to still vote.
Shyrah Maurer, who works in retail, voted for Trump at Kalani High School in East Oahu.
“I was a little disappointed by his demeanor lately, but he’s a businessman,” she said. “I’m an entrepreneur, too, and I think Trump knows what the country needs.”
Maurer’s second choice was Kasich.
Barbara Marumoto, the former GOP state representative for the area, cast her vote for Rubio.
“I think he’s a student of history and of foreign relations,” she said. “That’s good for Hawaii — trade, relations with Asia.”
A Tough Choice
Others chose not to disclose their preferences and suggested the choice was difficult.
Attorney Jim Hochberg, who was volunteering at the Kalani precinct, said before the polls closed, “I haven’t made up my mind, but I wouldn’t tell you even if I had.”
In 2012, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won handily, helped by a sizable Mormon population in the islands. Romney’s recent condemnation of Trump may have swayed some voters here, but clearly not enough.
Despite Hawaii’s small size, the caucus attracted national attention because the nomination is still up for grabs.
While Trump is the clear frontrunner nationally, Cruz, with the second-largest number of delegates, has positioned himself as the most serious challenger.
Assuming they don’t quit the race soon, Rubio’s fate is tied to the Florida primary, while Kasich’s fate is tied to Ohio’s. Both elections are March 15.
The Fight For The Caucus
The urgency to win the Hawaii contest was seen locally on a number of fronts.
A robocall to Hawaii phones last week was said to be from Trump supporters in Hawaii but actually attacked Trump. Rubio ran dozens of television ads in support of his campaign.
Trump spoke by phone to several Honolulu TV news programs Tuesday and caused a bit of a fuss when he said he had created jobs at the Trump International Hotel Waikiki, which he has connections to but doesn’t own. And Romney made a phone recording that aired in four states, including Hawaii, a call that came close to formally endorsing Rubio.
State Sen. Sam Slom, a former Carson supporter, endorsed Cruz over the weekend. Former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona endorsed Rubio and featured him via phone on his radio program Tuesday afternoon.
Former U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, who backs Kasich, urged island Republicans to reject Trump. Kimo Sutton, a GOP lieutenant governor candidate two years ago, retaliated, arguing that Djou seemed to be favoring Democrat Hillary Clinton.
On Monday, the Ted Cruz Hawaii organization warned that a vote for Rubio was a wasted vote and linked to a CNN report that Rubio was likely to drop out of the race rather than lose in his home state of Florida. On Tuesday morning, the Rubio campaign said the Cruz campaign was spreading false rumors and lies.
In The Spin Room
The Cruz campaign, backed by a renegade group who believe that the Hawaii Republican Party is not conservative enough, skipped a media availability at party headquarters Monday afternoon.
Just after 5 p.m. Ted Cruz Hawaii warned voters that Rubio was losing other races Tuesday — “Don’t waste your vote on a cooked goose” — but did not point out that Cruz too had already been served up as pâté in Michigan and Mississippi.
Meanwhile, the Kasich campaign sent out a press release spinning his loss in Michigan as a victory and pointed to all the races and delegates still to be decided. It did not mention Hawaii.
One thing seems clear from Tuesday’s Hawaii GOP caucus, however: Hawaii’s Republicans are as divided as the party is nationally.