The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports this morning that an internal poll of Georgia’s sixth congressional district shows Democrat Jon Ossoff locked in a tight race with Karen Handel, a Republican and former Georgia secretary of state.
This poll — conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, a group that has conducted polling for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — seems to suggest a competitive special-election race, with Ossoff leading Handel just 48-47, well within the margin of error. Only 5 percent of the district’s likely runoff voters remain undecided as the June 20 competition creeps closer.
On April 18, in the first round of voting to replace Rep. Tom Price, Ossoff fell just short of the 50 percent needed to take the seat outright. Handel came in a distant second with just under 20 percent of the vote. Many analysts suggested before April 18 that the 18-candidate field gave Ossoff a distinct advantage, as several of his competitors were Republicans about as equally viable as one another.
While the national Democratic party consolidated around Ossoff from early in the race, Republicans fielded a handful of qualified contenders, and all the way up to April 18 they battled one another for top billing. Several of the most competitive GOP candidates attracted endorsements from state and federal politicians, which further split local-party support among them.
Now that Handel alone is facing Ossoff, it makes sense that her support has risen substantially. The sixth district has traditionally been a GOP stronghold; it has been represented by a Republican consistently since 1979. Both John McCain and Mitt Romney took the district by about 20 percentage points in their presidential campaigns. It was only Trump’s poor showing in November, winning the sixth by just one percentage point, that made Democrats believe they could snatch the district from the GOP.
The strength of the GOP in this district has been on display since April 18: All of the top Republican contenders were quick to rally around Handel and push their supporters into her camp for the runoff.
Late on April 18, after Handel was declared to have come in second to Ossoff, her top GOP competitor Bob Gray — whose campaign featured rhetoric and policy goals similar to Trump’s — announced, “We are going to rally behind Karen Handel. We wish her Godspeed.” Since then, he has appeared at events to speak on Handel’s behalf.
Judson Hill, another GOP candidate in the race, whose campaign garnered the endorsements of Florida senator Marco Rubio and former GA-06 representative Newt Gingrich, also rallied behind Handel right after April 18 and has campaigned with her in the district.
If today’s poll is on track, their push for GOP unity is working wonders.