Politics & Policy

Karen Handel: Messiah?

Karen Handel in an April campaign ad (via YouTube)
Though she's no savior, her defeat in GA-6 could spell hell for the GOP.

All politics is local, the cliché goes. But small races can have huge national implications.

Take the June 20 runoff in Georgia’s sixth congressional district. Republican Karen Handel, 55, a former secretary of state, is running for the seat that seven-termer Dr. Tom Price vacated to become President Donald J. Trump’s health and human services secretary. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich served this suburban Atlanta constituency for 20 years.

While this has been GOP territory since 1978 — when Gingrich took it from Democrats’ hands after 108 years — Handel’s climb seems steeper than expected. She won the splintered April 18 primary by beating ten other Republicans. But her 19.8 percent total trailed the 48.1 percent tally for Jon Ossoff, 30, her Democratic opponent, who dominated his party’s largely unified field. (Ossoff’s four adversaries scored 0.3 percent or less; Handel’s closest competitor, Bob Gray, won 10.8 percent. Two other Republicans took 8.8 percent each.)

Although Handel’s rivals all have endorsed her, Republican voters seem less than electrified after this fractious primary.

Conversely, Democrats are as wired there as anywhere in America. They see Ossoff as a walking, talking two-by-four that they can smack over Trump’s blond coiffure. The former congressional aide doesn’t even live in the district. Ossoff was reared there but now resides in the adjacent fifth district, where his girlfriend studies medicine. Regardless, he has become the Trumpophobic Left’s latest weapon. This has generated limelight, excitement, and cash.

Democrats want to power Ossoff to a “hopeless” triumph, much like what happened to Republican Scott Brown when he captured the Massachusetts Senate post that Democratic titan Ted Kennedy had occupied until his death in 2009. Much as Brown’s “impossible” win fired the Tea Party to full boil, Ossoff’s victory in Gingrich’s old chair would agitate the anti-Trump resistance toward revolution.

The Left’s relentless rage and scandalmongering may have distracted Republicans from this contest’s high stakes. Georgia’s sixth district is not just one seat. It’s a major symbol for both parties.

“I think it would be a big mistake to allow this district to go to Ossoff, partly because of the psychology nationally,” Gingrich told Ballotpedia.

Handel’s victory would be a plus for Republicans: continuity in that GOP slot and a new congresswoman who signed Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

If Handel wins, the Left will cry for ten minutes and then resume their incessant Trump-bashing. But if Ossoff beats Handel, the left-wing media will trumpet this as bulletproof evidence that associating with Trump and his agenda is the political equivalent of chugging arsenic.

A Handel loss would demoralize one or two dozen wobbly Republicans. Rather than fight for what voters elected Trump and them to do, they will sit on their window ledges and ponder their political deaths.

A Handel loss would demoralize one or two dozen wobbly Republicans. Rather than fight for what voters elected Trump and them to do, they will sit on their window ledges and ponder their political deaths.

These nervous Republicans then will crawl under their congressional desks and curl into the fetal position. Obamacare repeal and replacement will become even harder to accomplish. Tax cuts? A tougher slog. A wall? What wall? Only the “Trump is untouchable” meme will be turbocharged.

Alas, the typical Washington Republican has half of Trump’s courage and a third of his energy. He has been underserved by a GOP Congress that seems more enamored of long vacations than of long nights enacting the president’s program and their own free-market initiatives. Yes, the House passed an Obamacare repeal-and-replacement bill. Lawmakers adopted 14 deregulatory Congressional Review Act measures, which Trump signed into law. And Neil Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court.

But the Gingrich-era, Contract with America–style sense of urgency and purpose is AWOL. Republican legislators can’t stampede home soon enough, only to get screamed at by livid left-wing mobs. Deep down, maybe Republicans are masochists.

For all these reasons, Handel needs her $463,000 in first-quarter contributions to catch up with the $8.3 million that focused and furious Democrats have handed Ossoff. Handel deserves at least as much wind at her back as the steady gale that the Left has furnished Ossoff. For now, Jon Ossoff leads Karen Handel by 7 points. And the hour is late.

Deroy Murdock — Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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