It was close. Very, very close. Democrat Jon Ossoff’s failure to reach the 50% threshold in Georgia’s 6th District race on Tuesday night means that the GOP can gather themselves and redouble their efforts to hold the seat come June. However, neither Democrats nor Republicans should be breathing easy after Tuesday night’s vote count.
Georgia’s 6th is a reliably Republican district, usually, but the GOP in this district is not a “Trump” GOP. The President ran well behind Mitt Romney in the 6th, and he may be a hinderance to the GOP there still. On the other side, Ossoff is an unknown. He has raised more money for the race than almost any other House representative ever, but everything he knows about politics was learned on a sightseeing trip to D.C., and so, he has no liberal track record to hold him back in the red district.
The good news for Democrats is that Ossoff won almost 50% of the vote in a jungle primary, that alone is a major feat. He also has a large cash reserve to continue his fight into June. Sadly for the Democrats, that is where the “good news” ends.
Other than raising huge sums of cash, Ossoff is a terrible candidate for this seat. He doesn’t live in the district. Voters in the 6th prefer establishment candidates and Ossoff is an unknown.
The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush has more on Ossoff’s shortcomings.
“Look, what is interesting is my inbox this morning has been flooded by Democrats who are sort of saying Ossoff was a terrible candidate. I think the larger issue that we’re dealing with here right now is the fact that the Democrats just don’t have a lot of candidates, not just in Georgia but around the country in general. There’s not a lot of people to kind of catch this Trump wave, and as we recall from the presidential election, just running as anti-Trump when you don’t have a personality to project or a message that’s really going to capture people’s imagination.”
For the GOP the news is similarly mixed. Stopping Ossoff from winning an outright victory was a vital first step, but he got a larger share of the vote than they were expecting. Choosing seasoned Georgia political veteran Karen Handel was also an important victory. Handel has long been the runner-up in most of the political battles she’s taken on, but in those campaigns she’s usually facing other Republicans. Handel is a strong candidate for the Georgia seat and the people in the district already know her well. While she will never raise the kind of cash that Ossoff has on hand, that won’t matter as much for someone with her long history in the district and the state. At her event on Tuesday night she energized her supporters by promising to get the campaign against Ossoff immediately started, “[Let’s] hit the ground running tomorrow, so on June 20th we keep the 6th District red and kick a little Ossoff!”
President Trump also took a moment to congratulate Handel, mock Democrats, and remind voters that Ossoff is a carpetbagger using California money to win a conservative district in Georgia.
While the race is now a little clearer there are still many unknowns, but perhaps the biggest is… how will the media report another Democrat failure. The Democrats just poured more than $8 Million into a jungle primary where they could not earn more than 50% of the vote, in a district they were hyping as eminently winnable. This comes on the heels of their other high-profile failure in Kansas where they lost by more than 7% to an uncharismatic and unpopular candidate. As Politico reports, the Democrats may be in bigger trouble than they realize:
As it became clear late Tuesday evening that Jon Ossoff would fall just short of the 50-percent mark in the first round of voting in a suburban Atlanta special election, Democrats back in Washington started leafing through their calendars and asking: When does the winning start?
Ossoff’s moral victory — capturing 48 percent of the vote in a conservative-oriented district — was welcome, but after two successive close-but-no-cigar finishes in House special elections in Georgia and Kansas, a new worry is beginning to set in.
For all the anger, energy, and money swirling at the grassroots level, Democrats didn’t manage to pick off the first two Republican-held congressional seats they contended for in the Trump era, and the prospects aren’t markedly better in the next few House races coming up: the Montana race at the end of May, and the South Carolina contest on June 20.