I don’t want to sound like the Baghdad Bob of the 2018 election cycle, but the special election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district was yet another reminder that despite the mainstream media’s relentless narrative attempting to turn the early days of the Trump administration into a story of GOP rout, reality has stubbornly refused to cooperate with them.
Don’t get me wrong—the GOP is absolutely facing headwinds in 2018. And there’s a lot of political ground left to cover in November. I’d certainly rather be in a position of winning districts by increasing margins rather than decreasing ones. Could the GOP lose the House?—Absolutely. But, as I wrote in my recent analysis of the 2018 election cycle, the Senate is not going to go Democratic in this political environment—or even anything close to it.
GA-06 is according to both the Cook PVI and 538.com the most Democratic-leaning seat in GA held by a Republican. There are 46 districts held by the GOP that are more Democratic than this one according to the 538 model. On the surface that would seem alarming for the GOP since the Democrats need win only 25 more seats to get a majority. But most of these are only very narrowly closer than GA-06. And very few of them will be open seats, as this one was. Given the broader context of the race, the political handicappers had already rated this race as a toss-up. The vast majority of allegedly vulnerable GOP seats are rated as no worse than GOP leans.
And GOP candidates look to have won overall by a couple of percent in an election in which they were badly outspent and spent most of their time attacking each other while Ossoff got slobberly wet kisses from the media and a largely free ride from his GOP opponents. Ossoff got tons of love and money from Hollywood, raising and spending well more than $8 million.
Regardless of what happens in the June runoff, Democrats are not going to bottle that same level of energy and attention and put it in 435 districts in November. They needed a victory and they didn’t get it. And at the end of the day, they didn’t even get that close, finishing with 48.1% of the vote.
Ossoff’s voters were certainly energized. Volunteers came from all over the country and 95% of his money came from outside the district. He took a staggering 71% of the early vote, showing that the most passionate Democrats, the same ones screaming at the GOP town halls, are definitely motivated. But there just don’t seem to be enough of them right now to swing the number of elections they need to win. And In Karen Handel the GOP picked probably the strongest candidate to go up against Ossoff in the general election.
As I wrote in my piece on 2018, the Georgia special election was a must-win for the Democrats if they wanted to show they had real political momentum on their side and a clear path to retake the House majority. They didn’t get there tonight. The reports of the electoral death of the GOP continue to be greatly exaggerated.