Robertson Has Strong Lead in Hawaii GOP Straw Vote
HONOLULU (AP) _ Former television evangelist Pat Robertson took a dramatic lead in the early results in a presidential straw poll of Hawaii Republicans on Thursday night after his supporters swelled state GOP ranks by nearly 60 percent in recent weeks.
With about one-fifth of the precinct caucuses reporting, Robertson had received 266 votes, while Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas got 47, Vice President George Bush received 34, former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont got 2 and Rep. Jack Kemp of New York received 1.
The Bush and Dole campaigns had acknowledged before the voting began that Robertson had the numbers to win the straw ballot at precinct caucuses. GOP membership rolls jumped from 11,333 in December to 18,209 eligible to participate in the precinct caucuses, the first step toward selecting national convention delegates.
Most of the new members had been signed up by Robertson supporters, including many in precincts previously unorganized by Republicans.
State Rep. Hal Jones, co-chairman of the Robertson campaign in Hawaii, said it was not his group’s intention to take over the Hawaii GOP.
″We aren’t focusing on the convention locally, we are looking at the national deegates,″ he said.
However, state Rep. Michael Liu, a Dole supporter, said, ″It is by the process that if you win the primary (straw vote), you win the party.″
Dole was an early favorite to win the Hawaii delegation, with support from many of Hawaii’s small group of elected Republicans.
The Bush and Dole campaigns sent out family members to stump for their candidates. But when the new memberships flooded GOP headquarters and Robertson’s strength became apparent, the party’s executive committee postponed the caucuses, originally scheduled for Jan. 27.
The Robertson campaign accused the Bush people of engineering the delay, and Robertson complained about ″tricks in Hawaii″ and elsewhere. The vice president’s supporters blamed the Dole campaign, which said Bush was responsible.
Party officials said they simply wanted to avoid a lot of confusion and legal uncertainties due to the late surge of new memberships.
A few precincts claimed the postponement was illegal, and went ahead with the meetings on Jan. 27. However, no presidential vote was taken.
Republican officials said the party’s rules chairman determined that the executive committee had the authority to postpone the caucuses.
The postponement, with the rescheduled caucuses coming only four days before the Iowa caucuses, took much of the spotlight off the Hawaii GOP. The Bush campaign sent its organizers back to the mainland and canceled a scheduled appearance by the vice president’s wife, Barbara.
The precinct caucuses begin the process of choosing Hawaii’s 20 national convention delegates. The process will be completed at the May 6-8 state convention.