Game Over: Karen Handel Beats Jon Ossoff In Georgia Special Election

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jun 20, 2017 10:21 PM
Game Over: Karen Handel Beats Jon Ossoff In Georgia Special Election

Republicans can breathe a sigh of relief in Georgia's sixth confessional district. The Ossoff insurgency is over. It’s finished. Republican Karen Handel has defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff 52/48 in the most expensive congressional race in history. Early results were pretty good for Handel, with many observers bracing for a deluge of mailed absentee ballots that could erase Ossoff's five-point deficit that later developed. A little over 27,000 absentee mail ballots were submitted, with David Wasserman of Cook Political Report noting that Ossoff needed to win at least 80 percent of those. When Dekalb County came in with him only winning 73 percent of those mailed ballots—Nate Cohn of The New York Times had him at 71 percent—it was pretty clear that Ossoff would not be able to win.

Ace of Spades Decision Desk called it for Handel, followed by CNN, and then the Associated Press made it official. As the polls closed, Wasserman added the high turnout could help Handel and it did. Then again, he also tossed in some history, where Democrats held PA-12 after the death of Rep. John Murtha in 2010, only to be obliterated in the midterms. It will be interesting to see if Ossoff did get 15 percent of GOP voters, while tallying how many voters who sat out the April 18 election only to show up and vote tonight. On paper, they number in the tens of thousands. Those voters reportedly trended conservative on the issues. Overall, it was a depressing night for Democrats. They lost this race and the special election in SC-05, which was held to fill the vacancy left by Rep. Rick Mulvaney, who is now The Director Of The Office of Budget and Management. The Left got an upper cut in South Carolina, followed by a haymaker in Georgia. Still, we have a long way to go until the 2018 midterms, but it seems the GOP base in GA-06 came home, despite not being the most enthusiastic Trump supporters. It was a good night for the GOP.

 What’s the practical effect of the historic turnout in Georgia? At first, Democrats might be tempted to believe it’s a great sign for Ossoff, because activists flooded his campaign with cash. But, ironically, high turnout could be helping Handel. That’s because low-turnout elections tend to benefit the more fired-up party, and that’s the Democrats.

 In April’s Kansas special election, Democrat James Thompson came within 7 points of a shocking upset in a district that President Trump won by 27 points, in part because the race got so little attention and so many Republicans didn’t vote. Voters cast a measly 121,000 votes there, compared with 276,000 last fall.

 But I’d estimate that about three-quarters of the 331,000 voters who went to the polls last November are likely to cast ballots in today’s special election. If Handel pulls this out, a big reason will be that fewer Republicans skipped the race. The downside for Republicans is that turnout won’t be that high everywhere in November 2018, and the enthusiasm gap could be wider.