MSNBC's Scarborough: The Democrats Failed In Georgia Special Election (And Retaking The House Is Still A Tall Order)

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Apr 19, 2017 2:30 PM
MSNBC's Scarborough: The Democrats Failed In Georgia Special Election (And Retaking The House Is Still A Tall Order)

Prior to the final tallies in Georgia’s special election to fill the vacancy left by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, MSNBC’s Morning Joe spoke with Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin, who said that Trump only won the GA-06 by a single point, and that it’s either going to be a massive win or loss for either side. Halperin agreed, noting this will be a huge test, especially for Democrats.

“If they can’t win in this highly educated district around Atlanta, then Democrats are—even with Donald Trump’s numbers the way they are—they’re just not surging the way the need to if they’re going to take back the House,” said Halperin.

Co-host Joe Scarborough said Democratic leaders have told him that they felt their party failed in the lead up to this race, that there wasn’t a solid ground game, and that Democrats should be treating this race like the presidential election in terms of enthusiasm, passion, and determination. I would say that’s semi-true. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had eight staffers on the ground in February, which increased to 70 by Election Day. The Democrat picked to flip the district, Jon Ossoff, doesn’t live there—and most of his donations are coming from outside of the state. Yet, he seemed to gain some confidence in the preceding days that he could have pulled it off last night, instead of his original position, which is to get a runoff spot. Well, in the end, more Republicans voted, though their share was split among 11 candidates and Ossoff only outperformed Clinton by one percent. James Hohmann of The Washington Post, citing National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar, said that Democrats don’t have a message to sell to voters, where they need to make inroads if there’s any hope for them to return to the majority:

To win back the House, coming close won’t be enough,” National Journal political editor Josh Kraushaar writes this morning. “Republicans were able to use their traditional playbook (to force a runoff), painting Ossoff as a down-the-line liberal to stunt his momentum. If that strategy works in the midterms, they’ll be well-positioned to hold their House majority. Democrats need to win these types of diverse, affluent Republican districts to regain control of the lower chamber. … All told, it doesn’t look as if many typical Republican voters -- even those who don’t care for Trump -- were inclined to vote for a Democrat to send a message…

“If there’s anything that should concern Democrats, it’s that they know what they’re against but not what they’re for,” Josh adds. “They’ve mastered the art of mobilization in the age of Trump, but are still struggling to persuade winnable voters. Ossoff’s campaign ads struck all the right notes, portraying him as a fiscal conservative and a pragmatist who’s tough on national security. But on the stump, Ossoff never really articulated much beyond bland Democratic talking points. With their pumped-up base, Democrats should have a productive midterm election. But to capture a House majority, they’ll need to pick off Republican-friendly seats with candidates who can reassure GOP-leaning voters with a moderate message. Balancing the energy of the progressive activists with that sort of pragmatism won’t be an easy task.”

Still, Democrats seem to be reverting back to their detached sense of reality that we saw post-2016, with Ossoff saying that his non-win—he failed to get 51 percent—was a “victory for the ages.” You didn’t win man and it seems quite possible that the GOP will unite behind Karen Handel, who fits better with the GA-06 since she’s more of a traditional Republican. Also, it seems Democrats are quite unhappy that Ossoff, and the Sam Jackson’s Pulp Fiction-based radio ads that supported his candidacy, couldn’t get him over the top.

This morning The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush said “My inbox … has been flooded by Democrats who are sort of saying Ossoff was a terrible candidate.”

Yikes.

At the same time, he did hit on another issue Democrats have, which is candidate recruitment.

“The other thing is, look how deep the bench was down there. There were a lot of people who wanted that seat. I think the larger issue that we're dealing with here right now is the fact that the Democrats just don't have a lot of candidates, not just in Georgia but around the country in general,” he added. Thrush also described Ossoff as more of a static electric candidate, so one that’s, more or less, very low energy. The runoff will be held on June 20.