In his recent local interview, Inouye listed the names above, as well as Gov. Neil Abercrombie
and Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth
-- who went to high school in Hawaii -- as possibilities for the race.
On the Republican side, former Gov. Linda Lingle
would be the obvious frontrunner if she enters the race. In November, Lingle said she would take six months before deciding whether she would run, but Akaka's decision to step aside only makes it more likely that she will enter the race.
Democrats have a 34 point registration advantage in Hawaii, and with President Obama
-- who is viewed very positively in the state he grew up in -- on the top of the ballot in 2012, the party appears to be in good position to hold on to the seat. If Lingle should enter the race, her high name identification across the state and ability to fundraise could cause some concern for Democrats as they seek to hold on to the seat. Still, it will be very tough for Lingle -- or any Republican -- to pickup the seat.
"Danny spent his career fighting for our troops, veterans and their families and for the rights of Native Hawaiians. He worked tirelessly to reform Wall Street and to make sure that consumers and small business owners are treated fairly in our system," said Obama in a statement Wednesday evening. "His voice in the Senate will be missed. Michelle and I would like to join the people of Hawai'i in saying 'mahalo' to Danny for his lifetime of service and offer both him and Millie our best wishes for the future."
Former Republican Rep. Charles Djou, who all but swore off politics after losing re-election last year, could be another possibility
for the GOP. But when asked about a possible run Wednesday, Djou told Politico
, "I currently have no plans to run for political office."
But Republicans expressed optimism on Wednesday about their chances.
"With several strong candidates already looking at this race, even before Senator Akaka's announcement, Hawaii presents an unexpected opportunity for Senate Republicans and we intend to make the most of it in 2012," said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson Brian Walsh
This post was updated at 9:00 p.m.