Decision Day: Anti-Trump 'Resistance' Pushing Hard for Georgia Special Election Upset

Posted: Apr 18, 2017 10:35 AM

Voters in Georgia's 6th Congressional District go to the polls today to select a replacement for now-HHS Secretary Tom Price. We mentioned this race last week ahead of the special election in Kansas -- which the GOP won, albeit by an uninspiring margin (for a number of reasons). Flipping that deep crimson district was a long shot all along, but Democrats have had their sights set on this Georgia contest ever since the vacancy arose. Price carried the seat comfortably in November, winning roughly 62 percent of the vote. It may be a Republican district, but it's not a Trump district; the president barely eked out a one-point victory over Hillary Clinton there, and Marco Rubio beat him handily in GA-06 during the GOP presidential primary last March. Democrats and liberal groups have been pumping huge sums of out-of-state money into the campaign, hoping to propel 30-year-old political neophyte Jonathan Ossoff to an upset victory. They're framing this as a referendum on an President Trump. How is that expected to play out? Signals are mixed. A few recent data points:

Those tweets contain hopeful and concerning news there for the Ossoff campaign: First off, if he is truly floating the 45 percent neighborhood, that means he's in striking distance of hitting 50-plus-one percent tonight -- which would be an outright victory, avoiding a June run-off that many Georgia political analysts believe would be a significantly heavier lift for the Democrats. The conventional wisdom is that Ossoff's best chance at a win is right here and right now, with Republican support fractured across an eleven-candidate GOP field. Democrats, by contrast, coalesced behind Ossoff early on.  If Democrats' hyper-energized base turns out in large numbers, while disengaged or complacent Republicans underperform, Ossoff can win.  Remember, the margin in that Kansas special election swung in Democrats' direction by double digits a week ago, compared to the fall general (with the caveat in place that it's probably a mistake to read too deeply into that result).

Enthusiasm anecdotes and early voting trends suggest that Ossoff was off to a fast start.  On the other hand, the GOP appears to have caught up on the latter metric, and most polling has Ossoff in the low-40's, which simply would not cut it.  Plus, that (+9) Trump approval rating would suggest that the off-year GA-06 electorate is more favorably disposed toward the president than voters were a few months ago.  On the other-other hand, raise your hand if you're willing to put your faith in public polling of a single Congressional District, in an unusual and unpredictable political environment.  On the other-other-other hand, Trump's poor approval ratings appear to be ticking up again nationally.  The smart money says that Ossoff fails to stave off a run-off, but it's been a weird two years in American politics.  In any case, President Trump waded into the race on Twitter over the weekend:

I'm not sure Trump's analysis of the Kansas dynamics and outcome quite hit the mark, but his criticism of the media's "Trump backlash" narrative (state and federal electoral evidence thus far: Zero), as well as shots at Ossoff indicate that he decided to do his part to motivate the Republican base down the home stretch. Democratic intensity can't get much hotter, but generally-satisfied GOP voters sitting at home is a real risk.  I'll leave you with our conversation about Democrats' efforts to regroup from Outnumbered yesterday afternoon:

UPDATE - Over the closing days of the campaign, the DCCC has been doing what it does best: Scaring the bejesus out of its low-level donors in order to wring every possible fundraising dollar out of them. Provocative subject lines are a staple of political fundraising, but this particular committee has really perfected 'give us cash' apocalyptic hyperventilation:

UPDATE II - Here's a late ad from the RNC casting Ossoff as a spoiled carpetbagging liberal, which doesn't even touch on his national security resume embellishments: