Lingle has distanced herself from the national party and pitched her candidacy as a moderate alternative to the liberal Hirono. Her two statewide gubernatorial victories, including a defeat of Hirono in 2002, give Republicans hope that she can pull off an upset in the traditionally blue state.
But Lingle faces steep odds: Hawaii has only elected one Republican -- the late Sen. Hiram Fong
-- to the Senate in its history, and he retired in 1977. Obama, who remains very popular in his home state, won Hawaii by 45 points in 2008.
In a poll
released last month by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser
, Hirono led Lingle, 58 percent to 39 percent.
Lingle has launched her own cable television network
in the state, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has run television ads on her behalf. If Lingle can cut into Hirono's lead in the polls, other conservative outside groups could come to her aid, as well.
Regardless of which candidate wins in November, the race is guaranteed to make history: Whether it's Hirono or Lingle, Hawaii will elect a woman to the Senate for the first time in state history.