From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:
The Dems Went Down to Georgia, Looking for a House Seat to Steal
Here it comes! Tonight brings the second and probably most interesting special House election of 2017, in Georgia’s sixth congressional district. Today 30-year-old Democrat Jon Ossoff, a quartet of other little-known Democrats, nearly a dozen Republicans, and an independent face off, and if anyone gets 50 percent, they’re the new representative. If no one reaches 50 percent, then the two top candidates – probably Ossoff and either former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel and local businessman or former Johns Creek city councilman Bob Gray – head to a runoff June 20.
As I wrote back in February, “These are not the most glamorous of contests, but as Republican success at the state level during the Obama years demonstrates, they can be consequential. If there is indeed a massive grassroots mobilization of anti-Trump voters in the works, its first glimmers should be seen in this year’s races.” Democrats ran a lot better than usual in the heavily-Republican Kansas district last week… but they still fell short.
Democrats think Ossoff has a shot of breaking 50 percent tonight. If he doesn’t, he’ll probably have a tough time in the runoff; as Erick Erickson observes, “There hasn’t been any significant poll showing Jon Ossoff equaling or exceeding Hillary Clinton’s 46.8 percent” that she received in the district in 2016. Getting almost 47 percent is a nice figure in a 20-candidate traffic jam of a race, and disappointing in a two-candidate runoff.
Georgia’s sixth congressional district — which is made up of the eastern part of Cobb County, as well as the northern parts of Fulton and DeKalb counties — has been represented by a Republican for nearly four decades straight, since 1979. For about two of those decades, the district’s congressman was Newt Gingrich; he was followed by Johnny Isakson (who is now one of Georgia’s two senators), and then Price. None of these candidates ever had any difficulty holding on to the seat.
Many who know the district well — much better than the outside Democrats who have swooped in to peddle Ossoff as the antidote to Trump — are quick to point out that, while GA-06 has long been Republican, it has never been Trump Republican. In the GOP presidential primary last year, Florida senator Marco Rubio won the district with nearly 40 percent of the vote. Trump came in a distant second with 28 percent, topped by a margin of about 14,000 votes. This may explain why voter enthusiasm in GA-06 paled come November. It is worth noting, too, that, skeptical though they are of his strand of conservatism, Trump is faring better with voters in GA-06 than he is with the median voter. While his current national approval rating is at 42 percent, in March he had an approval rating of 51 percent in the sixth district.
If tonight shakes out the way the polls suggest, with Ossoff in the high 40s, then the news for Democrats is mixed. Anger over Trump has motivated their grassroots to come out in better-than-usual numbers in special elections… just not enough to win in heavily-Republican districts.