Opinion: Close call in 6th should leave both GOP, Democrats uneasy

Republican candidate Karen Handel thanks her supporters late Tuesday night. (AJC Photo / Curtis Compton)

The vote-counting in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District was closer than most Republicans would have liked — and ran later than anyone would have liked; seriously, Fulton County??!? — but in the end neither side had to change the talking points it prepared earlier in the day.

Democrats: It should have never been so close in a gerrymandered Republican district!

Republicans: Jon Ossoff spent $8 million in two months and got (basically) the same number as Hillary Clinton last fall!

The truth is somewhere in the middle. It’s clear the Democrats enjoyed an enthusiasm advantage and may have solidified the ground they won among independents last fall. (Losing independent voters was one concern I heard from some of the Republican campaigns leading up to Tuesday.) To the extent that’s true more generally than in this special election — and turnout of 40 percent is pretty substantial — it seems to signal something of a problem for Republicans in the Trump era with higher-income, college-educated voters who have tended to vote for them over the years. It is also notable that the candidates who most closely embraced President Trump finished poorly. As I write this, just after 1 a.m., the most pro-Trump candidates finished a distant third (Bob Gray), fifth (Dan Moody) and 10th (Bruce LeVell). (UPDATE: With the final votes tallied, Moody moved barely into fourth place, for what that’s worth.) The Republican whose campaign was least hitched to the president, Karen Handel, is the one who very easily advanced to the run-off with a total just higher than Gray’s and Moody’s combined.

But. But …

It is pretty remarkable that Ossoff could raise more than $8 million, a record for a congressional race in Georgia, and hardly move the number for his party. Clinton got 46.8 percent in the district in November. Ossoff was at 48.3 percent when I finally went to bed. That’s a gain of 1.5 percentage points. If he gets another 1.5 points in the run-off, he’ll … still lose. (UPDATE: The final tally showed Ossoff at 48.1 percent, for a 1.3-point gain.) And most of the other leading Republican candidates have already rallied behind Handel, indicating there won’t be any lingering fractiousness from the jumbled field.

So here’s where I think the two parties are in the early months of the Trump era: The Republicans still aren’t quite sure how to embrace him, and the Democrats still aren’t quite sure how to attack him to any effect. That means Republicans will lose some voters in places like the 6th, but not enough (yet) to lose races in which they’re favored — unlike Democrats, who lost some very key races across the country last fall in places where they lost significantly more voters.

I’ll have some more thoughts after getting some sleep, but I do know this: I’ll rest much more easily than I expect out of those working for either party or surviving campaign.

Reader Comments 0

146 comments
quickdigits
quickdigits

If all those Republicans who voted for the different Numerous Republican Candidates in the 6th district race yesterday All Get Together and Vote for Karen Handel, There's No Way in Hell that Ossoff will win....

Raaharr
Raaharr

Looking at the big picture, it's already too late for the Dems.  Trump got his SCOTUS conservative man and can now just wait for one of the others to go toes up...

Raaharr
Raaharr

Maybe Ossoff will spend another 8.5 million of Hollywood's money and get another 1.3%.  It'll be close but Handel will still win.  The national republicans will really start cranking up the money machine as well.  Could this be the most expensive congressional race in history?

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

Intersectionality - I had to look that one up.


Kyle has posted new sheetz. 

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@Kyle_Wingfield 

I may have asked before but in case not...

would you ever consider writing an article on intersectionality and the complications that arise from it?

Competing interests in conflict.

In case you haven't noticed, I'm a bit quirky in what interests me.

Human behavior is all consuming. 

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@Kyle_Wingfield @FIGMO2 @McGarnagle

Bummer! 

Your article was in relationship to domestic and economic issues. I was thinking more in terms of social issues...identity politics. Dem's cuttin' and pastin' doesn't work in the intersectional world.

Try though they may, it never will.

People are individuals first, and members of a group, last.

Thanks anyway, Kyle.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@Kyle_Wingfield @FIGMO2 @McGarnagle


I would add that some of the republican ads for 6th district election go along the lines of he's "not one of us". And this candidate "is one of us".


Dangerous territory to go there.

Stop...
Stop...

"It is pretty remarkable that Ossoff could raise more than $8 million, a record for a congressional race in Georgia, and hardly move the number for his party. Clinton got 46.8 percent in the district in November. Ossoff was at 48.3 percent when I finally went to bed. That’s a gain of 1.5 percentage points. If he gets another 1.5 points in the run-off, he’ll … still lose."


This "math" made me sad. :( 

Georgia: 52nd in Education.


BTW Note that Hillary is not Ossoff. The closest to "semi-realistic dirt" they could find on him was his Han Solo. (What an outsider, he picked a costume from the most popular movie franchise ever.)


"And most of the other leading Republican candidates have already rallied behind Handel, indicating there won’t be any lingering fractiousness from the jumbled field."


Like the Republicans who were running attack ads against Handel a few days ago? Yep, they're genuinely United. Flying the friendly skies together!


Dear 6th,

Your Deep Blue neighbors from the 4th & 5th welcome you to Metro Atlanta  :)

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RufusATL @Stop... I fail to see what's fuzzy about it. Clinton got 46.8%. He got 48.1% (with the updated figures). That's a very slight improvement given the resources poured into his campaign, and it's worth asking whether he can really improve upon that figure (assuming no complacency on Republicans' part...).

Stop...
Stop...

@Kyle_Wingfield @RufusATL @Stop... She got that against one guy. He got that against 17. And it was as much as the 4 R's in places 2-5.


He's not her. Ppl cross party lines, 40 years ago is not 2017, and April 2017 is not November 2016.


Your're comparing apples to sea monkeys.


And I have a feeling you know it.


But over 100 posts were already here before I read this page and none called you out on this. 


So, that's the problem with the math. You forgot to carry the one, silly.

TomGaff
TomGaff

Now let me figure this out? Several months ago, the DEMS wanted to elect the First female POTUS. They called us women haters when Hillary lost. Now we have a chance to elect the First female Senator in GA? Do the DEMS hate women now? Seems like a double-standard for the DEMS. It must be they believe in their way or the highway, right?

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@TomGaff


First female senator? This is election for house of representatives. And no one has called Handel ugly. At least not yet.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@TomGaff

Intersectionality will ensnare dems every time.

TomGaff
TomGaff

@McGarnagle @TomGaff Thanks, I apologize for the mistake(as Hillary would often say). Ok, take out the word Senator and enter House of Representatives. Is it not almost the same as for a female First in GA?

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@TomGaff @McGarnagle


Well Cynthia McKinney was elected to the house from GA. But I am sure Handel is going to be a first at something but  won't be as historic.

Stop...
Stop...

@TomGaff Yes, you're getting the hang of it. Divide & attempt-to-conquer! D vs R. M vs F.


Everyone must elect EVERYBODY - all at once yay!

Stop...
Stop...

@TomGaff @McGarnagle Handel was already previously elected the freakin Secretary of State! But she quit on the people of Georgia who'd elected, her because she decided she wanted to be the Governor instead. 

atlantagator
atlantagator

@TomGaff There have already been women who have served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia, and Rebecca Felton served as a U.S. Senator for one day in 1922.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

I think this election is worthy of a debate. Will we get one?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 Geez, that's news to me.


I thought the birther issue was on the place of birth, not on Obama's skin color.


No It was about his skin color. You would have to be a fool to believe otherwise. 

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Hedley_Lammar

No

Those that think it was his skin color have a huge chip on their shoulder about race and continue to use it as an excuse.

Iain MacAllester
Iain MacAllester

The Republican Vote was split 8 ways.


How is this a "close call"? if you assume the party vote will stay the same, Alfred E Newman there will lose by 2%...about the same as the last election.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Hedley_Lammar @Kyle_Wingfield @Iain MacAllester

Why don't you pick and chose, go back even further.

I believe Trump won that district by only 1%.

Since the Dems made it a vote against Trump, it really was not that close and won't be as close in the runoff.

The Dems have peaked too soon, again.

Just like they will rue the day they forced Repubs to the nuke option on SCOTUS judges.

The next one won't be a mild conservative.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@RafeHollister She did not in her speech last night.


And given Trumps unpopularity I suggest she stay far far away.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@RafeHollister


CAMEROTA: I mean, very quickly, President Trump only won there by one percentage point. Are you certain that he will be an asset for you in the district? 


HANDEL: Again, it is all Republicans all hands on deck. So we are going to be united.


Very vague in that answer. But if Trump wants to continue defending Bill O'rielly and his sexual harassment claims. Have at it.

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

It would be a mistake for Handel to dis Trump entirely. True, the 6th Pub/Cons are not his biggest fans. I myself decided to vote for him at 5:10 PM standing in the voting booth on November 8. It was an easy decision in some ways, and very difficult in others. But it was a gamble that I think it has paid off up to a point. But it is still too early to tell. 


Why should Handel navigate the center lane on Trump until the run off?  Because he is a man of action, ideas, and true leadership. He comes from a world where you perform, produce, and get things done . . . or go home. Not a place where you can hang around for decades and accomplish basically nothing and still get sent back again and again. He comes from a world where leaders must lead, and if they don't, they are quickly replaced. 


Handel needs to keep the lines of communication open. With Trump, something really good might happen during the next few weeks, days, or hours. He is a human dynamo, all over the place. He is passionate and energetic, and not a cautious, sleep walking, "so let it be written, so let it be done" (by other people of course) pontificator who first blames America for everything that goes wrong. Who knows what rabbit Trump might pull out of the hat before the run off? 


Could it go the other way? Of course, but the over all karma (except for those in permanent temper tantrum mode) is positive. Handel does not want to be in the position of shunning the President and then begging for a Trump appearance, or a positive endorsement when she might need it most. She needs to keep the door open.  


Trump is working hard to fix the economy, and he cares about American jobs and workers, and he wants to get this nation out of the Obama doldrums created by 8 years of weak leadership, or  leading from behind, and just plain old incompetence. The lies, slander, and lame stream bias suffered by him and his family on anything and everything imaginable is unprecedented in modern presidential politics. But, so far, that is all the Dem/Libs have going for them, plus their little hissy fit gets attention. 


True enough, he weaves all over the place, and he may be doing that because he is crazy like a Fox. I admit that I enjoy watching it because it drives the Dem/Libs crazy - and it keeps foreign enemies, and friends, on their toes too.  They know that Obama is gone and America is no longer wearing a "kick me" sign stuck on its back, or butt. 

Here's_to_Blue
Here's_to_Blue

@Ficklefan  It's absolutely amazing what some people define as "leadership."The "fickle" in your screen name is more aptly a description of the president.  Trump is nothing but a wishy-washy bully who is out for his own financial gain. 

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@Ficklefan  Handel had warm words for Trump this morning on Fox and Friends.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Here's_to_Blue @Ficklefan

Decorum does not allow to adequately express the true nature of your foolishness.

The man paid most of his campaign expenses, has given up his presidential salary, and arranged his financial empire so he is not involved.

I expect you think he should have divested himself of his life's work and thrown he children onto trust funds while discarding a lifetime of teaching them to be producers.

You exemplify what is wrong with the Left.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Ficklefan This paean to the incompetent in the White House might be good as unintended piece of entertainment. But the claim that this obsessive liar, who brags about groping women, has suffered “lies, slander, and lame stream bias” is too pathological to be swept aside without a response.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Ficklefan But it was a gamble that I think it has paid off up to a point.


WOW ! What planet are you living on ?

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@Ficklefan


"He comes from a world where leaders must lead, and if they don't, they are quickly replaced."


Oy. Trump inherited his dad's successful business. Please cut out the fawning over his business acumen. Out of all the great business leaders in the world, none of them are as arrogant egotistic, and narcissistic as he is.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

@Here's_to_Blue @Ficklefan  "Trump is nothing but a wishy-washy bully..." 

But he's not Hillary Clinton, and for better or worse that was the clincher for many voters who decided he was the less toxic of two fairly toxic presidential candidates.

If the Dems had run Joe Biden he would've won easily.

atlantagator
atlantagator

@SGTGrit Well, she should.  For better or worse, he's the leader of her party.  Let's just hope he doesn't say something stupid in the next five weeks and lose the election for her. 

atlantagator
atlantagator

@stogiefogey "But he's not Hillary Clinton, and for better or worse that was the clincher for many voters who decided he was the less toxic of two fairly toxic presidential candidates."

That clinched it for me.  But I would have voted for the Lucifer/Beelzebub ticket before I voted for Hillary Clinton.  My feelings about Trump were mixed enough that I would have seriously considered voting for another Democrat for president for the first time in my life.  But Hillary?  Never.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Ficklefan

Agree on all but the hesitance to vote for Trump.

No matter the rhetoric from the Dems, they always do either the wrong thing or in cases of the right thing take it tooooo far.

The only choice for America is Republicans.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

I lived in the 6th. for sometime and while it was a close call I doubt if Ossoff and the Democrats can get a win in June. Since it will be a head to head race with Republicans unified in support of Handel and very much aware that they dodged a bullet nothing will be taken for granted.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@SGTGrit


It'll be interesting how the president plays into all this. In the ads I saw Handel in, not once did she mention Trump. And if Trump still has twitter rants, she would be wise to stay away from him. And Ossoff would be wise to sync Handel with Trump as republicans are trying to do with Ossoff and Pelosi.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@McGarnagle @SGTGrit  The Dems worked hard at getting out the vote if their effort peaked it may be difficult to reignite the enthusiasm much less get more of it to surpass Handel in the head to head contest.

bu22
bu22

@McGarnagle @SGTGrit So Osoff should use Hillary's successful tactic?  He was wise enough not to do that.  Not everyone has Trump Derangement Syndrome.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@bu22 @McGarnagle @SGTGrit


Fair point. But the president can be a liability depending on how much he goes on twitter. He's been ok to stay out controversy recently but he can easily dig his own hole at times. 

atlantagator
atlantagator

@McGarnagle"But the president can be a liability depending on how much he goes on twitter."

I hope the NRCC can arrange to break the fingers on his right hand and put them in a cast for the next five weeks.