Democrats on this island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean say they have felt isolated and inconsequential in past presidential elections, but a historic nominating process this year has them energized and eager to get involved.
With the news this week that Barack Obama has a lock on the Democratic nomination, party officials are turning their energy toward rallying behind the Illinois senator and strategizing to defeat the presumptive Republican candidate, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
“The Democrats are going to come together,” Kaua‘i Democratic Party Chair Linda Estes said yesterday. “I’m very optimistic. I think we have a fabulous candidate and I’m looking forward to going to the inauguration in January.”
Andy Winer, the state director of Obama for America, said the party will reunite and reveal the critical political differences between Obama and McCain.
U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Obama’s chief rival for the candidacy, did not immediately concede defeat after a wave of superdelegates announced their support for Obama following the results of the final primaries Tuesday.
News outlets report that she will make a formal concession on Saturday and remains open to serving as Obama’s running mate but knows the choice is his alone.
David Plouffe, the national Obama for America campaign manager, says in a message on Obama’s official Web site that the total number of delegates needed to secure the nomination is 2,118 and as of Wednesday he has the support of at least 2,179 delegates, which essentially secures the nomination.
The nomination will become official at the Democratic National Convention, Aug. 25-28, in Denver.
“We’ve got huge challenges ahead as we build our organization for the general election,” Plouffe says. “John McCain has been running his general election campaign for months and we have some catching up to do.”
Some residents, such as Clinton-backer Scott Mijares, say they have yet to hear enough about Obama’s promised “real change in Washington” to just blindly switch ships because of party affiliation.
More information may become available if Obama and McCain follow through with their intent to hold town hall debates across the country over the months leading up to the Nov. 4 election.
The Kaua‘i Democratic Party will be having some activities to bring everyone together, probably starting next month, Estes said.
Kaua‘i Sen. Gary Hooser said he will be speaking at two different functions, one in July and another in September, on behalf of the Obama campaign.
Hooser, who met Obama once in Honolulu after he was elected to the U.S. Senate, said the candidate is “truly inspiring.”
“He represents hope for the future and a change in the direction of the country,” he said.
Plouffe says one of the benefits of this historic primary season is that the campaign had a chance to build grassroots organizations in all 50 states.
“We have an unprecedented opportunity to mobilize volunteers everywhere and compete in places that Democrats have overlooked in the past,” he says.
Estes, who returned yesterday from Democratic events in New Mexico, said she hears some Democrats disappointed in Clinton’s defeat say, “Well, we’re going to vote for McCain now.”
“I haven’t run into anybody that stupid on Kaua‘i,” she said. “I don’t worry about people coming behind Obama on the island. They’re much too smart.”
Estes said the local party will work over the upcoming months to “try and get out the vote.”
“I’m hopeful we can bring Independents and Republicans into that mix too,” she said. “There’s lots of reasons to support Obama and I can’t think of a single reason to support McCain.”
• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or firstname.lastname@example.org