Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Republicans Scramble to Hold On to Two Republican Seats in Special Elections

Republicans are practically giddy that Karen Handel defeated Jon Ossoff in the special election runoff in Georgia's 6th Congressional District.

I want to congratulate Handel. A win is a win is a win, and she won.  Democrats put a lot of chips on this one, and Republicans mobilized and got it done.

Still, there are some signs out here that are not so bad for Democrats.  First of all, this isn't just any seat.  This is Newt Gingrich's old seat.  In 2004, George W. Bush won the district by 41 points over John Kerry.  Just this November, Tom Price, now a member of the Trump cabinet, won the district by over 20 points.  In Georgia's 6th, it's hard to overturn over 40 years of Republican rule...only Watergate did that.

Ossoff also raised a lot of money. Much of it was from outside the district, but he also outraised Handel inside the district, and Handel relied on outside donors for almost all her campaign cash.  She even got some late PAC help. A real effort by Republicans this week mobilized the troops and tried to suppress the Democratic vote with a pro-GOP PAC taking out of context a story from Barack Obama's autobiography.  Those are all tactics now.

This is really the beginning for Handel, who will face a lot of scrutiny as a new member of Congress over the next year and a half or so.  She'll probably face a crowded primary and perhaps even Ossoff again in November of next year.

A footnote to all of this is that Democrats also lost a race in South Carolina last night.  Ralph Norman defeated Archie Parnell by three percentage points in a race that was much tighter than expected.  Democrats paid little attention to this race in comparison to the Georgia race.  Mick Mulvaney, now a member of the Trump Administration, won the district by 20 points in November. Cook Political rates the district as a +9 Republican district.  That's a baseline of nearly 60 percent for the GOP.

So, in short, the Republicans spent a lot of money simply to hold on to two seats they already comfortably had won in November.  If there's any such thing as a moral victory, I think the Democrats can claim it.

Still, elections have consequences and the tape reads that the GOP held both seats on Tuesday.

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