Politics & Policy

GOP’s Special-Election Sweep Bodes Well for Trump Agenda

Karen Handel waves to supporters on election night in Atlanta. (Reuters photo: Bita Honarvar)
It’s time for the Democrats to get over last November.


With U.S. representative-elect Karen Handel’s victory in Georgia and Ralph Norman’s in South Carolina Tuesday night, the Grand Old Party has won four of four contested special elections for the U.S. House since President Donald J. Trump entered the Oval Office.

The Left has caricatured Trump as a dangerous maniac who is widely hated, except among the bigots whom he bamboozled into supporting him. This turns out to be a hoax.

Between April 11 and June 20, Democrats urged voters to stick it to Trump by dumping GOP House candidates in Kansas, Montana, Georgia, and South Carolina. Democrats struck out all four times.

Handel, 55, was supposed to fall to Jon Ossoff, 30, a documentarian and former congressional aide. Thanks to a virtually united Democratic field, national enthusiasm among liberals, and a treasure chest worthy of Jean Lafitte, Ossoff scored 48 percent in the April 18 primary and nearly captured the seat outright.

Meanwhile, Handel staggered into the runoff after a fractious primary among eleven Republican rivals. Her qualifying, second-place finish totaled just 20 percent.

Despite all of this, Handel won the suburban-Atlanta seat, with 52 percent to Ossoff’s 48.

Handel’s triumph, and these four wins as a whole, offer multiple lessons for various players:

• Republicans should take heart that Trump won these four referenda. For GOP officeholders, associating with Trump turns out to be perfectly safe.

Yes, these special-election winners earned smaller margins than their predecessors. But they succeeded four-term Mike Pompeo of Kansas, two-term Ryan Zinke of Montana, four-term Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, and six-term Tom Price, the immediate past House Budget chairman. The power of incumbency — coupled with outgunned opponents — largely explains the healthy vote tallies that these congressmen enjoyed. When these four new lawmakers seek reelection, higher name ID and the other benefits of incumbency likely will vault them over this season’s ballot results.

Therefore, nervous Republicans on Capitol Hill should stop quaking in their wingtips. No more excuses. They need to rediscover their spines, stop running from Trump, and implement (and improve) his agenda. Obamacare needs replacement, taxes need reduction, the “border” needs reinforcement, and terrorists need liquidation. Republicans should put corresponding legislation on Trump’s desk and repeat this mantra daily: Good policy is good politics.

• House speaker Paul Ryan will enjoy some wiggle room. Handel, Norman, and Montana’s Greg Gianforte all were elected after Obamacare repeal squeaked through the House on May 4, with just two votes to spare. These new GOP members will give Ryan more flexibility as the House adopts conservative reforms.

• Democrats should understand by now that Resistance is futile. Temper tantrums will not suffice. The American people want solutions, not ceaseless bellyaching about last November interspersed with assassination chic.

The mild-mannered Ossoff likely was scorched by the unbridled hate of the increasingly incendiary Left. It repeatedly has subjected Trump to ritual decapitation, and one of its fanatics shot Representative Steve Scalise (R., La.) and four others within a week of Tuesday’s balloting.

The New York Shakespeare Festival’s just-concluded production of Julius Caesar, in which a Trump lookalike gets stabbed to death onstage, apparently became an issue in this race.

“Georgia’s Sixth District is full of good people who want civility and fairness in a political system that produces positive results, not divisive extremism,” Lawrence W. Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Atlanta, told me. “If I had a dollar for every person down here who said he was utterly sickened by the Caesar/Trump spectacle, I could retire early. The best way to register that disgust on Tuesday was to vote against the candidate whose ideological allies were perpetrating such things.”

“Democrats would do much better as a party if they got together with Republicans on Healthcare, Tax Cuts, Security,” Trump declared Wednesday, via Twitter. “Obstruction doesn’t work!”

“Ossoff race better be a wake up call for Democrats — business as usual isn’t working,” Rep. Seth Moulton (D.,  Mass.) concurred. “Time to stop rehashing 2016 and talk about the future.”

The Left should stop whining and, finally, accept the results of the last election. And then they should craft specific ideas to correct America’s problems. Love or hate deregulation, a 15 percent corporate tax, or even the “solar wall” that Trump envisions on the southern frontier, at least he and the Right are for something.

• Campaign-finance reformers may admit that money can’t buy you love. It doesn’t necessarily buy you political power, either. For all the talk of the evil top 1 percent purchasing politicians, Ossoff spent some $25 million to Handel’s $5 million. And yet, he lost. Also, many liberals who bemoan the mere presence of money in campaigns stopped complaining just long enough to write Ossoff fat checks from their mansions in Beverly Hills and Pacific Heights.

• Pollsters came out of this race smelling like month-old roses. Their Election Day consensus judged the race too close to call, after having Ossoff up as much as seven points not long ago. A June 17 WSB-Landmark Communications survey gave Ossoff the edge, 49.7 percent to 48 for Handel.

Handel won by four points.

The American people want solutions, not ceaseless bellyaching about last November

Pollsters seem as flummoxed as ever. On many election nights, Republicans outperform their final surveys. GOP voters increasingly shield their intentions. When leftists wallop rightists merely for wearing pro-Trump hats, it’s no surprise that conservatives confuse poll takers.

• Celebrity activists may hurt Democrats more than they help. Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi could not win Hillary the White House. Similarly, Rosie O’Donnell and Jane Fonda were among Ossoff’s fans in Tinseltown. They could not drag him across the finish line, either.

Author Mark Steyn questions the wisdom of Hollywood’s campaign endorsements. As he told Fox & Friends Wednesday morning: “The idea that Samuel L. Jackson should determine your politics is as stupid as putting Chuck Schumer in an action movie.”


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Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor, a contributor to National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


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