I’m back from four days in Philadelphia, where I heard exactly zero talk about the 6th District. (Hey, it’s not like I was in San Francisco.)
Of course, there’ll be a lot of it over the next 24 hours-plus. Starting right here.
I was on a panel last week at an event the AJC had for subscribers, and I made this statement: There’s only one side for which a win in this election would be huge, and there’s only one side for which it would be crushing. It’s the same side.
And it’s not the Republicans.
Here’s my thinking, starting with the GOP: If Karen Handel wins, she simply met the expectation for a Republican in that district. Yes, the drama sparked by all that money going to Jon Ossoff means it would be a particularly satisfying/sweet/relieving victory. But a win is a win, and the GOP was expected to win.
A loss would be disappointing, but the intensity of that disappointment would be curbed in large part by the very unique circumstances. It’s the most expensive congressional race ever, with money flooding in from out of state for a seat that ultimately will be just one of 435 in the U.S. House. I feel safe saying we will never see another $50 million ($60 million?) race in this district again. With that comes the surge of staffers and volunteers who have helped Ossoff blanket the district on the ground in an unprecedented manner that also likely can’t be matched in the future. Finally there’s all the media attention this race, which has been essentially the only game in town for much of the campaign. If Handel loses, Republicans will be able to look to next year with perfectly reasonable hopes of retaking the seat (though any Republicans not voting for Handel with the calculation that they can find a candidate more to their liking and unseat Ossoff next November just might be playing with fire).
Now to the Democrats: A win for Ossoff would undoubtedly be a huge win for his party. Democrats have been buoyed by the backlash to President Trump, but so far they haven’t managed to win any elections because of it. The elusiveness of a victory in 2017, particularly given the enormous sums they’ve spent to try to secure it, would make a win in the 6th all the more sweet.
But what goes up must come down, and so it goes with political hopes. Democrats have been sky-high with the prospect of a win in the 6th. That emotion won’t simply level out with a loss. I would expect Democrats’ morale to plunge with a loss as much as it would soar with a win. Which is to say a loss tonight would be crushing. They’ve spent probably $30 million or more at this point for a congressional seat, the equivalent of two or three races in the Senate — where the margin they must overcome next year to put a greater legislative check on Trump is so much slimmer. I would expect a good bit of recrimination on their side if all that money, energy and what I’ll call “emotional capital” is all for naught. It matters not how close a loss it is: Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
With all that said, I wouldn’t dream of making a prediction. The polls suggest a tight one, and all those aforementioned special circumstances mean I’m not sure anyone truly knows what to expect. But if you plan to watch the returns until the end, I suggest putting on a pot of coffee.