Opinion: Despite the hype, it’s unlikely we’ll see an upset in the Sixth

As special elections go, the race to replace Tom Price in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District has been about as expensive and closely watched as it gets. Sometime Tuesday night, we’ll find out if all the money and attention were worth it.

That is, we’ll see if a green-horn Democrat with millions of blue-state dollars can truly move the needle in a deep-red district.

Jon Ossoff (AJC Photo / Bob Andres)

Jon Ossoff was almost completely unknown when he announced a candidacy with a simple slogan: Make Trump furious. It’s earned him a record fund-raising haul and a ton of attention from national media outlets intent on portraying the race as a referendum on Trump.

I was skeptical of that narrative when the race began, and I remain dubious now.

First, it’s far from clear anything especially unusual is happening here. The Sixth has a consistent ceiling for Democrats of 40 percent. The one exception was last November, when Donald Trump barely won a plurality in the district over Hillary Clinton. And the operating theory for some was that that single data point overshadowed what we’ve seen in the Sixth for years and years before 2016.

How’s that going? Well, the average of the last 10 public* opinion polls in the race, covering the past month, shows Ossoff at 42 percent. Just two of the 10 show him definitely above 40 percent when considering the poll’s margin of error. None, even when considering the margin of error, shows him reaching 50 percent. (Adding the totals for the distant second-place Democrat, former state legislator Ron Slotin, gives us a combined average of 43 percent.)

So if the polls have it right, the Democrats are currently under-performing Clinton in the Sixth, not building upon her showing to make a surprise move for the seat.

Now consider what those polls show about the GOP side of the field, which is much more scrambled. The six leading Republicans, fighting for a spot in a run-off, average a combined 48 percent in those 10 polls. Their total equals or trumps Ossoff’s in nine of the 10 polls.

Then there are the early voting totals, which strongly indicate Republican voters have not only matched but surpassed the big number Democratic voters posted early on. That’s fairly typical. So is the likelihood that voting on Tuesday itself will tilt significantly in Republicans’ favor.

On the available evidence, then, what we have is what we had every reason to expect from the start: The consensus Democratic candidate is pulling the roughly 40 percent of Sixth District voters who reliably vote for Democrats, plus some independents. If that holds up — and the big caveat here, in fact the only reason this contest is in any doubt whatsoever, is that special elections with low turnout can have strange results — then the Ossoff phenomenon will have been much ado about nothing. After all, the Democrats’ candidate last year got 38 percent while reporting no campaign spending.

I spoke with people in the campaigns of three of the four leading Republican candidates in recent days to test my thinking. Two of them said flatly they thought Ossoff’s window for a majority on Tuesday has closed, to the extent it was ever open. The third hedged a bit, but still said the most likely result for the Democrat is to finish in the low 40s. Given that it’s been a relatively mud-free affair on the more crowded GOP side of things, meaning we can expect the also-rans to line up pretty quickly behind the surviving Republican, that most likely would mean little more than a chance for liberals in California, Massachusetts and New York to pour good money after bad in a run-off.

Finally, consider what this race has really been about. The narrative of this being a referendum on Trump doesn’t really hold up in light of how the campaign has been waged. The Republicans have hardly tried to run from the president. On the contrary, a few of them have spent much of their time trying to burnish their own pro-Trump bona fides, or to cast doubt on their opponents’. Even Ossoff, besides that “Make Trump furious” line, has spent some of his TV ad time lately talking about cutting government waste and holding Washington accountable to taxpayers. Take away the “D” by his name and the Daily Kos fund-raising efforts, and he’d almost sound like another Republican. The mentions of him as a Democrat have mostly come in Republican ads. What does that tell you about the way things still stand in the Sixth?

It tells me the supposed revolution up Roswell way ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

*You’ll notice one other poll on the list at the link that wasn’t a public poll, but an internal poll by the Moody campaign that was reported in Politico. I left it out because it only broke down the results for three of the Republicans while showing an especially large “other” vote — making it way too exclusive to include in this exercise.

Reader Comments 0

223 comments
Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

Did President Trumpster Fire ever find his Navy?

DontWorryBeHappy
DontWorryBeHappy

Mr. Wingfield,


Might I suggest that you change your profile picture to something for more humble and less smug-looking. Your facile prediction in this pompously written piece is simply wrong.  61% as of 8:54. You may wish to consider taking up 'expertise' in something other than election outcomes in the future...


Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

You posted this a mere one hour ago and now I am LOLing in YOUR pompous, smug-looking face.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

It appears that the young Mr. Ossoff, is going to be voted off.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

He either wins outright tonight or is toast when running against whichever Real American is in the runoff.

breckenridge
breckenridge

The gutless cowards at Fox News are busy trying to manufacture an radical Islamic terror attack in California where none existed. But that's the kind of fear the Fox faithful feed upon.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@breckenridge  Yes you are a radicle un-American sympathizer. We know that but why be so cowardly?

breckenridge
breckenridge

@SGTGrit @breckenridge 

Here's some advice you scared little girlie-man....put on your Paddle Faster! I Hear Banjos tee-shirt and walk around neighborhood, give all your neighbors a good laugh.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

The young ossoff, looks like a white Barack Obama. Skinny and extremely inexperienced.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Are there enough Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars nerds in GA06 to elect Pajama Boy?

I know a couple of folks who are excited to vote for him and they're not exactly what you'd call Normal Americans.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Buried in an otherwise humdrum jobs report for March was the jaw-dropping pronouncement by the Labor Department that mining jobs in America were up by 11,000 in March.


Remember when the libs nattered on about coal being dead, just because Trump said he would revive the industry? How many times does this make for them being flat out wrong? By my count, it's in the thousands  now and I haven't even added Russia yet.


I'm tired of winning.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

"I'm a mile and a half down the street to support  Alicia while she finishes medical school. It's something I've been very transparent about," he said. "In fact, I'm proud to be supporting her career."


Yes, we all know how weak women are, it would be silly to make her drive that extra mile and half so that you could actually represent the district you live in. 


Either that, or she's got your testicles in a lock box.


Which is it, joanna?

JD101
JD101

Kyle - Let's be transparent.  There are plenty of out-of-state red state dollars coming in also.  The RNC PAC base is recently pouring money into the district recognizing the optics that a seat flip creates and the significant damage it would do to R's ability to move forward their agenda.   I agree - it's unlikely to see a flip.  However, it's also naive to expect this is a one-time blip.  I'm sure the party thinks a run-off solves the problem - and leads to a 'comfortable' red seat win.  But national Repub party will have to spend 4x as much as Dems to overcome enthusiasm gap 3 weeks from now.

JD101
JD101

@AndyManUSA#45 @JD101 http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/gop-poll-democratic-candidate-in-georgia-6th-district-sliding/article/2619164


Fun game!  Links to sites noting the ad buys and fund raising data to support a perception.  

Upon disclosure forms for April - don't be surprised to see over $4M in Republican super PAC spending on ad buys.   


It's free speech.. But it ain't from '6th district constituents'.   Just tryin to be honest...  In the runoff the argument about 'where the money is coming from' will be moot - because both sides will have over 60% of their funding from outside the state.

Monicanudo
Monicanudo

Watch how quickly Democrats throw Ossoff under the bus when he fails to live up to the hype they've been putting out about him.

Notably in this Democrat newspaper.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

As optimistic as I am, if Ossoff exceeds 50% that would be a shock to everyone everywhere.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/guess-who-came-dinner-flynn-putin-n742696


And next to Putin at the head table, in the seat of honor, was an American. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who would later become Donald Trump's national security adviser, was already advising Trump's presidential campaign when he was paid $45,000 to speak at the gala.


Flynn was one of 10 people at the head table, including the Kremlin's top leadership. Three of the Russians, including Putin, were under U.S. sanctions at the time for their role in Russia's annexation of Crimea.



SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@Hedley_Lammar @SGTGrit  You're not still buying into that Trump/Putin connection are you? I would hope you're smarter than that, even Bookman appears to have given up on that one with all that's going on now with Russian relations with the administration.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

 a relatively mud-free affair on the more crowded GOP side of things

I guess they don't air the same anti Karen Handel ads in your neck of the woods that I'm seeing every night for the past two weeks.


AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

If the libs view the thrashing they took in Kansas as a close race, ossoff making it to a run off will be seen by them as though it's the  second coming of karl marx.

breckenridge
breckenridge

We're closer to all out war than what I've seen since a young Marine in 1965. It is very real people, pay close attention.

Paranoia will destroy ya. 

GAResident9
GAResident9

I was at the polling station and some left winger was turned away because he didn't live in the district. He was crying and whining about it not being far and a cop had to come over and tell him to leave. 

I would wager to bet that most of these Assoff fans we see on the AJC don't live in the district...then again neither does Assoff.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

Well if I was a betting man I would bet on Repubs winning the 6th. I also would have bet on Hillary winning presidency. Hey, can't win em and can't lose'em all right.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

Well it's certainly nice to post niceity nice opinions about Georgia state elections and Obamacare and what not but the real news goes far beyond our national borders. We're closer to all out war than what I've seen since a young Marine in 1965. It is very real people, pay close attention.

Starik
Starik

@SGTGrit With a draft dodger in charge of foreign policy. Hopefully he's at least seen some realistic war movies.

Ychromosome
Ychromosome

So, there's only one CONservative poster. At least have the common courtesy to change your username from time to time so it will seem as if more of you can read.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Ychromosome The one you have in mind does change his username from time to time, and the mindlessness, stupidity and mannerism of his comments and insults is so repetitive he is easily recognizable under any username.