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Republican Karen Handel Wins Georgia Special Election

Karen Handel Victory Speech

In what was without question the most expensive and most closely watched Special Election for a single House seat in American history, Republican Karen Handel easily defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff last night:

ATLANTA — Karen Handel, a veteran Republican officeholder, overcame a deluge of liberal money to win a special House election in Georgia on Tuesday, bridging the divide in her party between admirers of President Trump and those made uneasy by his turbulent new administration.

Ms. Handel, 55, fended off Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old Democrat and political newcomer who emerged from obscurity to raise $25 million from progressives across the country eager to express their anger at Mr. Trump. That fervor quickly elevated what would otherwise have been a sleepy local race into a high-stakes referendum on Mr. Trump and the most expensive House campaign in history.

The surprisingly easy victory for Ms. Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state and Fulton County official, averted a humiliating upset for Republicans in an affluent, suburban Atlanta district — Georgia’s Sixth — that they have controlled for nearly 40 years. And it showed that Republicans skeptical of Mr. Trump remained comfortable supporting more conventional candidates from their party.

The apparent success of relentless Republican attacks linking Mr. Ossoff to the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, and her “San Francisco values” also affirmed the efficacy of tying Democratic candidates in conservative districts to their brethren in more liberal parts of the country.

With all 208 precincts reporting, Ms. Handel had 51.9 percent of the vote to Mr. Ossoff’s 48.1 percent.

Addressing supporters in Atlanta, Ms. Handel noted with pride that she had become the first Republican woman sent to Congress from Georgia, and she pledged to represent all of her constituents, including Mr. Ossoff’s supporters. But she made clear that she would work to pass major elements of the Republican agenda, including health care and tax overhauls.

“We have a lot work to do,” Ms. Handel said. “A lot of problems we need to solve.”

For Democrats, the loss was demoralizing after questionable “moral victories” in two earlier special election defeats, for House seats in conservative districts in Kansas and Montana. Mr. Ossoff appeared so close to victory that Democrats were allowing themselves to imagine a win that would spur a wave of Republican retirements, a recruitment bonanza and a Democratic fund-raising windfall heading into the 2018 midterm elections.

Addressing a crush of cameras and supporters who spilled out of a hotel ballroom, a subdued Mr. Ossoff tried to strike a hopeful note as he conceded defeat.

“This is not the outcome any of us were hoping for,” he said. “But this is the beginning of something much bigger than us.”

The margin in Georgia was ultimately larger than even some Republicans had expected, with tax-averse voters in the outer suburbs overwhelmingly siding with Ms. Handel.

Yet the Republican triumph came only after an extraordinary financial intervention by conservative groups and by the party’s leading figures, buoying Democrats’ hopes that they can still compete in the sort of wealthy, conservative-leaning districts they must pick up to recapture the House.

Both parties now confront the same question: What does such a hard-won victory in the Lululemon-and-loafers subdivisions of Dunwoody and Roswell, where Mr. Trump prevailed in November, augur for Republicans who next year will be defending an array of less conservative seats outside the South?

(…)

In the so-called jungle primary in Georgia — the initial special election on April 18 — Mr. Ossoff, one of 18 candidates on the ballot, captured just over 48 percent of the vote, an unusually strong showing for a Democrat but short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Ms. Handel came in a distant second, with just under 20 percent, as Republicans divided their support among a number of credible conservative contenders.

But Republican leaders were optimistic that the party’s voters would rally behind Ms. Handel in a two-candidate showdown.

Questions also lingered about whether the grass-roots coalition backing Mr. Ossoff — fueled by highly motivated anti-Trump activists who were, in many cases, new to political activity and organizing — could improve on its April showing in a runoff held at the beginning of the summer vacation season, in a district where people have the means to escape to the beach.

Ms. Handel and her supporters portrayed Mr. Ossoff as far too liberal for a district that, covering somewhat different territory, was represented from 1979 to 1999 by Newt Gingrich, a Republican and former House speaker. They also criticized Mr. Ossoff for his youth and inexperience and assailed him for living outside the district, although he was raised in it.

Mr. Ossoff’s allies, for their part, paid for an advertising campaign deriding Ms. Handel, a former chairwoman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, as a profligate spender while in office. And Mr. Ossoff ran television ads that rehashed Ms. Handel’s resignation from the Susan G. Komen Foundation over her belief that the group, which raises money to fight breast cancer, should cut ties with Planned Parenthood.

(…)

Republicans, fearing the symbolic and tangible repercussions of a loss in Georgia, spared no expense in propping up Ms. Handel’s candidacy. Mr. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan all came to Atlanta to help her raise money, and conservative groups poured $12 million into the runoff, nearly all of it assailing Mr. Ossoff.

A “super PAC” aligned with Mr. Ryan, the Congressional Leadership Fund, spent more than $7 million from April to June.

Still, the $8 million gusher of liberal money that Mr. Ossoff enjoyed leading up to the April vote only intensified during the two-month approach to the runoff. He brought in another $15 million, much of it in small contributions from beyond Georgia’s borders. And national Democratic groups, persuaded that he had a strong shot at winning, rushed in with their own advertisements denouncing Ms. Handel.

Although they received enormous political and financial support from allies in Washington, the two candidates tiptoed around more polarizing national political figures. Ms. Handel rarely uttered Mr. Trump’s name of her own volition, preferring instead to highlight the district’s Republican lineage and warn that Mr. Ossoff would do Ms. Pelosi’s bidding. Only in declaring victory late Tuesday night did Ms. Handel make a point of offering “special thanks to the president of the United States of America,” a line that set off a boisterous chant of Mr. Trump’s name by the crowd.

Mr. Ossoff, for his part, sought to avoid being linked to Ms. Pelosi or labeled a liberal. He assured voters he would not raise taxes on the rich. And in pledging to root out wasteful spending and seek compromise, he sounded more like an heir to former Senator Sam Nunn’s brand of Southern centrism than a progressive millennial who cut his teeth working for Representative Hank Johnson, a DeKalb County liberal.

In addition to Handel’s victory in Georgia, Republicans also held on for a win in another Special Election that garnered far less national attention. In a race to replace former Congressman Mick Mulvaney, who now serves as President Trump’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Republican Ralph Norman defeated Democrat Archie Parnell in a race that ended up being closer than the outcome of the race between Handel and Ossoff. This means that Republicans have won all four of the Special Elections held so far in 2017, with the races in Georgia’s Sixth District and South Carolina’s Fifth District joining races in Kansas and Montana on the Republican side of the aisle. Given the fact that each of these elections was being run to replace a former Republican Congressman, this isn’t entirely surprising, of course, and the outcomes in these races shouldn’t necessarily be taken as being indicative of a national trend of any kind. Special Elections are often opportunities for a party that normally wouldn’t win in a specific district or state, the most notable example of that being 2010’s Special Election to replace Ted Kennedy in the Senate, which Scott Brown won. That win, though, only happened because Brown happened to be the right kind of Republican to appeal to voters in a very red state and that his Democratic opponent was an especially bad campaigner who lost an election that she easily should have won. More often than not, Special Elections are won by the candidate of the party that is favored to win in that particular district or state. This is exactly what happened in the four Special Elections that we’ve seen since April.

As for the race in Georgia, these factors and several others go a long way toward explaining what happened in what many political pundits and members of the media had turned into a bellwether election that would indicate both the national mood and act as a referendum on the Presidency of Donald Trump. Democrats seemed to agree with this idea given the fact that both Ossoff’s campaign and the outside groups that spent money on the race to help him seemed to spend more time talking about national issues like climate change and trying to use the President’s declining job approval numbers and the controversies surrounding the Trump Administration against Handel. That proved to be a mistake and the outcome of the race once again proved true the old Tip O’Neill adage that “all politics is local.”

Handel and the outside Republican groups supporting her, by contrast, ran a campaign that concentrated mostly on issues of more direct concern to local voters such as the economy as well as by using several issues against Ossoff in a race that seemed to become more and more negative as it went on. One of the biggest issues, for example, was the fact that Ossoff did not live in the district itself, but rather in a town just on the other side of the district line. In retrospect, this was a problem that Ossoff could have easily dealt with by renting an apartment in the district and establishing that as his primary residence before getting into the race and numerous voter interviews by reporters at polling places seemed to show that the fact that he didn’t was something that many voters held against him.

Not surprisingly, the outcome of yesterday’s election has led to many different pundits attempting to draw conclusions about what happened, and why it is that Ossoff didn’t win. John Cassidy in The Yorker, for example, calls the outcome of the race a “reality check” for Democrats hoping to turn the 2018 midterms into a referendum on the Trump Presidency, while The Washington Post’s Paul Kane cautions Democrats from concluding that a candidate more aggressive than Ossoff would have done better in a district like this. Kane’s Post colleagues Amber Philips and Reuben Fischer-Baum, meanwhile, try to find the silver lining for Democrats in Ossoff’s loss. Matthew Yglesias at Vox argues that the outcome in this race shows why Democrats need a substantive agenda other than just being anti-Trump if they’re going to win going forward. Over at The New York Times, Frank Bruni describe Democrats as demoralized after a loss in such a hard fought race while David Leonhardt tries to tell Democrats to “buck up,” and points out that Ossoff ended up doing better last night than a Democrat would ordinarily be expected to do in this particular Congressional District. On the right, the reaction is also about what you’d expect. Ed Rogers at The Washington Post calls Handel’s win a “yuge win” for Trump given the fact that Democrats tried to turn the race into a referendum on him and his Presidency, and Morning Joe‘s Joe Scarborough, meanwhile, blasted Democrats who have claimed the outcome as some kind “moral victory” due to the fact that Ossoff did better than a Democrat should have been expected to do. Instead, Scarborough argued, they should take the outcome as a signal that Democrats aren’t going to succeed unless they run candidates who can actually win in the districts they’re running in. Jennifer Rubin and Jonah Goldberg, meanwhile, pour a bit of reality on those trying to draw national conclusions about what happened in this election, pointing out that ordinarily, this would be a race that Handel should have won easily in any case.

While all of this may prove insightful at some point down the road, the fact of the matter is that a Republican won in a district that has gone Republican since Newt Gingrich won the seat in 1978. While Ossoff did come close to winning the seat outright in the first round “jungle primary” in April, that was due in large part to the fact that there were ten other Republicans opposing Handel, four other Democrats opposing Ossoff, and two Independents on the ballot. As I noted at the time of that first round, the odds were against Ossoff winning the Special Election notwithstanding the fact he came within just a few points short of winning the 50% plus one of the votes that would have made a runoff election unnecessary. As the race for the runoff went on, the truth of how difficult it would be for Ossoff to win became more and more apparent. While he did lead in much of the polling after the first round, Handel began surging in the last several weeks to the point where she held a modest lead in the RealClearPolitics and Pollster polling averages. That should have been a signal to pundits, journalists, and the outside activists backing Ossoff that they odds were against them. You can see the reality that the polls were showing in spite of the national media spin, in the RealClearPolitics chart of the polling in this race:

FireShot Pro Screen Capture #197 - 'RealClearPolitics - Election 2017 - Georgia 6th District Run-Off Election - Handel vs_ Ossoff' - www_realclearpoli

Another factor that worked in Handel’s favor was the fact that turnout for yesterday’s election ended up favoring her significantly, perhaps because the attention that the pundits, the national media, and Democratic groups from outside the state gave to the race. In April, we saw just over 192,000 voters turn out for the “jungle primary” that Ossoff nearly won outright. As I noted at the time, this was significantly lower than the 326,000 voters who cast ballots in November 2016 when Tom Price was re-elected with an 80,000 vote margin and also lower than the 211,000 voters who turned out to vote in the district in the 2014 midterm election. By contrast, yesterday’s election saw more than 259,000 voters cast ballots, that’s an increase of more than 67,000 votes from the first round. That’s unusual for a runoff election when you typically see fewer votes cast than in the first round, especially in runoffs held at an unusual time of the year when many voters are already starting off on summer vacation travels that begin earlier in Georgia due to the fact that school years typically end far earlier than they do in other parts of the country. This increased turnout in a historically Republican district ended up helping Handel pull out a big win in a race where she was being cast as an underdog on a regular basis. While we can’t really know for sure, it’s likely that what happened here is that Republicans in the district became more energized by the national attention the race was getting, and responded to that and the campaign that was being mounted by Democrats in support of Ossoff by turning out in numbers you’d typically expect in November of a midterm or Presidential election year. All of this turned out to be enough to put Handel over the top and handed her a victory that was far stronger than most outside observers thought it would be.

 

 

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. al-Alameda says:

    It seems pretty clear to me: Republicans are not moving off Trump, period.

    They’re staying with Trump and the radical Republican agenda.

    Also, an aside: I now think that many Republican voters are not ‘cooperating’ with pollsters, not indicating their strong support directly. The numbers leading up to the election yesterday still had Ossoff up, with a shrinking margin. That margin was probably a false read all along. Trump is an embarrassment to some Republicans however they may not want to tell pollsters that they still support him, but when they go to the polls to vote, they’re staying with the Republican Party.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 6

  2. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    This just in; a Republican won a district that has been won by Republicans since 1979.
    Democrats come very, very, close in what have long been strongly Republican districts…and Democrats are wringing their hands?
    WTF…

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 20 Thumb down 6

  3. Paul L. says:

    They’re staying with Trump and the radical Republican agenda.

    For Rep. Steve Scalise.
    Rep. Steve Scalise who is fighting for his life from a cowardly left wing extremist terrorist attack.
    For Steve!, will you stand up and keep fighting against Obama’s overreach.
    For Steve!, will you stand up and keep fighting against Abortion.
    For Steve!, will you stand up and keep fighting against Gun Control.
    For Steve!, will you stand up and keep fighting against Gay Marriage.
    We have to stand up. We are going to stand up together, and we’re going to organize! We’re going to organize! We’re going to organize! We’re going to organize! We’re going to organize! We’re going to organize!
    For Steve!
    For Steve!
    For Steve!
    For Steve!

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  4. @al-Alameda:

    I don’t think this has nearly as much to do with Trump as you assert.

    A Republican won in a Republican district. It’s as simple as that. Trying to draw national conclusions, such as what this says about Trump, is largely mistaken. In the end, Handel ended up winning last night by a larger percentage than Trump did in the same district last November. That means that it’s likely that a sizeable number of traditionally Republican voters who didn’t support him ended up voting for Handel anyway. Among other things, that suggests that it was a mistake for Ossoff and his supporters to try to turn the race into a referendum on Trump.

    Also, your point about the polls doesn’t comport with reality. Yes, Ossoff held a modest lead for much of the time between the April jungle primary and yesterday, but, as the chart from RCP shows, Handel was surging in the polls in the final weeks of the race. As it is, polling is harder to do in Congressional Districts generally because the sample sizes are smaller. This is even more true in the case of Special Elections and runoff elections. In this case, polls were picking up on the surge toward Handel at the end of the race, although they didn’t fully anticipate just how much larger Republican turnout would be in this runoff. It was because of that turnout that Handel won.

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  5. One other observation.

    Ossoff came close to winning this seat. That’s unlikely to be true of whoever the Democratic nominee happens to be in 2018.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  6. Jen says:

    This is not a surprising result to me. Parties win upset victories when turnout for their candidate is high and the incumbent party’s turnout is lower than the district’s makeup would typically warrant.

    The attention this race received meant that turnout was going to be higher than typical for a special election. The fact that this special election garnered turnout that came close to 80% of what the turnout was for the most recent general election is remarkable. This will continue to be the case in any special election that draws the attention of both parties the way this one did–it is very, very hard to fight the partisan lean of a district. (I believe I said as much in a comment on an earlier post that discussed Ossoff leading in one of the pre-election polls.)

    This is hardly something to be discouraged about. Losing close races in solidly Republican districts means, if nothing else, Republicans are going to have to spend a lot of money in 2018 defending seats that should be theirs solidly.

    Democrats need to step up their recruitment efforts, and not get demoralized about something that was (IMHO) fairly predictable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @Paul L.:

    Paul: take your meds.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 2

  8. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Paul L., get back on your meds. You’re scaring the dog.

    Michael: Ha! Great minds and all that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  9. Guarneri says:

    @al-Alameda:

    It’s a bunker mentality. But wild eyed accusations are all the Dems have.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 21

  10. gVOR08 says:

    @Paul L.: That quote from Limbaugh is, of course, nonsense. But it is a reminder that we can expect a lot of this. The GOPs will milk this for all it’s worth and more, waving the bloody shirt at every occasion for decades.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  11. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Paul L.:
    We are still waiting for your Dear Leader to condemn the terrorist attack on Muslims at the mosque in London.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  12. michael reynolds says:

    Handel was a nasty bitch, Osoff was a doe-eyed sweetheart, and southerners always vote for an asshole.

    More concerning if I were Republican is SC-05. A rural district, 67% white, just came within 3 points of going Democrat. We won’t move the Republican suburbs (GA-06) until rich white people get their tax cut. But in SC-05 no one is expecting a tax cut.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 9

  13. michael reynolds says:

    Steve Scalise worked tirelessly to ensure that guys like this shooter – history of domestic abuse, history of violence, mentally unstable – get their hands on guns. Scalise created the circumstances that resulted in his being shot. So boo hoo for Steve. If you spread ebola, you don’t get to whine when you catch ebola.

    My sympathy is for the two cops who had to rescue the bought-and-paid-for NRA stooge.

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  14. @michael reynolds:

    For a Special Election, SC-05 isn’t all that surprising. We saw something similar when Mark Sanford went up against Steven Colbert’s sister in a Special Election in SC-01 in 2013. She was competitive, but in subsequent elections in 2014 and 2016 Sanford has won by overwhelming margins.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  15. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Remember too that one of the Congressional Police Officers who saved Scalise’s bacon is a gay, black, woman. If Scalise had his way the nut-case would have been more heavily armed and that gay black woman wouldn’t have been anywhere near the scene.
    The ironies here are almost too rich for belief.

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  16. teve tory says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    As somebody put it on twitter, “You don’t see the GOP beating themselves up when they don’t flip San Francisco.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  17. TM01 says:

    Maybe the voters of GA-06 were just upset at the outside forces from places such as California trying to influence, or hack if you will, an election in which they can’t vote.

    Maybe they were resisting the obvious collusion between Ossof and people such as Nancy Pelosi.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 25

  18. TM01 says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
    You forgot to capitalize her name: It’s Gay Black Woman.

    Because she’s only useful as a symbol now.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 22

  19. teve tory says:

    I’m just glad Rex Tillerson’s State Dept just announced a new investigation into Hillary’s emails.

    These guys are pathological, and their supporters are idiots.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  20. HelloWorld! says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Its a red herring that this race was close for the dems. With a republican in the white house voter turnout from the republican side would already be lower, which is what always happens. In elections, anything > 3.5 point spread is considered a wipeout. Democrats need to take this to heart and make some serious changes. Not necessarily in position, but leadership.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9

  21. Gavrilo says:

    @teve tory:

    You also don’t see the GOP flushing $30 million trying to flip San Francisco.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  22. Scott says:

    @Paul L.: @michael reynolds: @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: @Not the IT Dept.:

    But there is something instructional here from Paul L.:

    He states clearly what he is for. Democrats need to do the same. This was the complaint about Hillary’s presidential campaign. You can’t be just against Trump. You must say even if unpopular what you are for:

    Health care for all
    Women’s right to choose
    Minimum wage of $XX
    Etc

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  23. teve tory says:

    @Gavrilo: Or the Dems having to spend even more to defend it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. Gavrilo says:

    @teve tory:

    Ossoff and the outside Dem groups spent about $9 million more than Handel and the outside GOP groups.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  25. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The takeaway from this election is that we held the GOP to under 52% in a district with a PVI of R+8 that went 62% Republican just last year.

    That’s a 10% swing in a solidly Republican district – in the South no less. I’ll take it, even if we lost, because I like what it portends.

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  26. MBunge says:

    @michael reynolds: Scalise created the circumstances that resulted in his being shot.

    Because if a woman doesn’t want to be raped, she shouldn’t wear a short skirt? Congratulations, Reynolds! The butt hurt has officially pushed you past the a-hole barrier and into the realm of actual evil. It would be pathetic but for the fact that you’re smart enough to know such garbage never helps your side, yet you still can’t help it. The butt hurt is too strong, which makes it kind of funny.

    As for the election, Democrats under Obama lost the House, lost the Senate, lost the majority in Governors and lost over 1,000 state legislative seats. But virtually no one in the Party, the liberal movement or the media have bothered to ask why.

    Maybe it’ll be an answer the Left wants, like maybe Obama re-energized racist whites. Maybe it’ll be an answer the Left hates, like maybe treating whites the way the GOP treats blacks is a non-viable political strategy. But it’s past time they start asking the question.

    Mike

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 21

  27. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    But virtually no one in the Party, the liberal movement or the media have bothered to ask why

    There is no need to ask why. Unsophisticated voters reacted in knee-jerk fashion to an economic crisis in a census election year, thereby handing Republicans the tools that they needed to gerrymander to their hearts content.

    And they did …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  28. TM01 says:

    DOesn’t how close this election was disprove the need for gerrymandering reform?

    Maybe with a better candidate, one who actually lived in the district perhaps, the Dems could have won this one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 15

  29. Gavrilo says:

    Funny, but I can’t find one lefty anywhere that claimed GA06 was unwinnable for Ossoff prior to about 10pm last night. In fact, after the April primary Dems were confident of victory because Ossoff only had to move the needle a couple of points (which, despite spending over $20 million since the primary, he miserably failed to do.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11

  30. teve tory says:

    His campaign raised a lot more than hers did from individuals, 20 million to 4. So much so that outside groups had to spend $18 million more to help her barely win a seat the GOP won last year by 20 points (compared to 7 million in outside funding for him.)

    If the GOP blows off what happened here it will be very, very stupid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  31. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @MBunge:

    Because if a woman doesn’t want to be raped, she shouldn’t wear a short skirt?

    WTF…dude you are officially around the bend.
    That makes zero logical sense. Scalis is a legislator who has helped enable gun ownership by nut-jobs.
    What that has to do with rape escapes me…I mean…maybe if a woman wears a short skirt and is a legislator and makes rape easier for nut-jobs. Jebus-gawd…use your fwcking head.
    You need professional help.
    Obamacare will cover it…go now before Republicans take that opportunity away from you.

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  32. drj says:

    @teve tory:

    These guys are pathological, and their supporters are idiots.

    I don’t think so. Not all of them, at least.

    I found this rather illustrative:

    Maybe [Georgian voters AKA “Real Americans”] were resisting the obvious collusion between Ossof and people such as Nancy Pelosi.

    In other words, Nancy Pelosi is about as un-American as Vladimir Putin (if not more so); and California is de facto foreign territory.

    Which means that, according to Trump supporters, marriage equality and nearly-universal health care are about as un-American as imprisoning gays and murdering journalists (if not more so).

    These people are not fooled by Trump’s lies – not completely, I believe. They are not (just) idiots. Instead, they entertain a radically different vision for their country, based on a set of morals that (at the very least) crosses into evil – and I’m not using that word lightly.

    And, of course, the GOP is deliberately catering to their moral preferences.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  33. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Gavrilo:

    Something for you to consider:

    Republican percentage of the vote in the GA 6th:

    2002 – 79.91

    2004 – 100

    2006 – 72.39

    2008 – 68.48

    2010 – 99.91

    2012 – 64.51

    2014 – 66.04

    2016 – 61.70

    2017 Special – 51.90

    Seeing a trend there?

    The beauty of this is twofold – either Congressional Republicans stick with Trump (and thereby allow us to hang Trump around their necks next November) or they break with Trump in an effort to save their own behinds (and thereby politically paralyze their party).

    In the first, they have to spend a fortune defending seats that they normally shouldn’t have to even consider (which bleeds off funds they’ll need to contest seats that are actually toss-ups). In the second, they get nothing done, and their base turns on them.

    This is the perfect storm – a pissed off electorate to whom the GOP has made all manner of promises which Jesus Christ couldn’t deliver on, coupled with the added burden of having an abject moron installed as the de facto leader of their party (and who is leading it into war with itself). The GOP is in control of everything, but can’t deliver anything, which puts them out in front of the pitchforks & torches.

    Either way, the Democrats benefit. Why should we be upset?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  34. Gavrilo says:

    @teve tory:

    Ok. They guy Tom Price beat by 23% in 2016 may not even exist. I’m not kidding. He ran absolutely no campaign. No one ever heard of him, saw him, or spoke to him.

    http://www.cbs46.com/story/33632482/who-is-the-ghost-candidate-for-us-6th-district

    https://www.codeblue.team/blog/2016/12/23/ghost-candidate-in-georgia

    If the Dems are jazzed that Ossoff outperformed a ghost candidate, they are very, very stupid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 14

  35. Guarneri says:

    There it is!! Rachel Maddow has spoken. It was the weather!!

    When does the probe into Russian weather hacking begin?

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  36. Jen says:

    @Gavrilo: Actually, the real story in that case would be that against Tom Price, a living, breathing, actual member of Congress had a portion of the electorate that would rather vote for a candidate no one had ever even seen than him.

    It wasn’t the weather, it was the turnout. In a solid majority +8 Republican district, it was always going to be an uphill battle for a Democrat. Not impossible, but a D winning that seat would have relied on a lower Republican turnout and a higher Democratic turnout than would typically be expected for the district. That didn’t happen, the district held its numbers, etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  37. @HarvardLaw92:

    i don’t know that it portends anything. Turnout for a Special Election is typically far different from the turnout for midterms. And that’s especially true for a Special Election runoff. Whoever goes up against Handel in 2018 is going to have a far tougher chance than Ossoff did.

    As for what it means for the race in 2018 nationally, it’s far too early to jump to any conclusions about that. Midterms are 17 months away, making predictions about them now is largely worthless.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  38. @HarvardLaw92:

    Turnout in GA-06 in 2018 is likely to be more like what the district saw in the 2014 midterms than what it saw in the 2016 Presidential Election year. That, plus the fact that an incumbent will be on the ballot suggests to me that the odds are that whoever the Democrats put up in 2018 to run against Handel will have a far tougher time than Ossoff did.

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  39. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Turnout for special elections typically lags both presidential and midterm elections. This one exceeded the turnout in the 2014 midterm by nearly 50,000 votes.

    Normally, I would agree you about it being far too early to predict anything, but this isn’t a normal cycle. We have Trump. He’s only going to get worse. The GOP either splinters or their boat anchor drags them to the bottom.

    I don’t expect to win the GA 6th in 2018, although I’d certainly take it.

    What I do expect is to make it a very expensive hold for Republicans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  40. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    You’re not getting it.

    Again, I don’t expect to win races like the GA 6th.

    I expect to be able to force the GOP to have to defend them. I don’t want to beat them in the Georgia 6th. I want to bleed them in the Georgia 6th (and every other district like it). It allows us to weaken them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  41. gVOR08 says:

    @TM01:

    the obvious collusion between Ossof and people such as Nancy Pelosi.

    I give up, what?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  42. @HarvardLaw92:

    Three points.

    First, given the national attention that was paid to the race and the amount of outside money that poured into this single district the fact that turnout was higher doesn’t really surprise me. Typically, Special Elections tend to get lower turnout than midterms or POTUS election years and runoff elections tend to get lower turnout than first round elections in the same race. In this race that trend was reversed. And I think you can largely attribute that to the national attention and the outside money. People I know in the Atlanta area tell me that the volume of ads for that one race running on Atlanta-area television was akin to what you’d see in a midterm or POTUS election year. It shouldn’t be surprising that turnout went up between April and June given all of that.

    Second, you’re not going to see a single race in a single House district getting $50 million spent on it in 2018. That’s not an efficient use of resources for either side when there are 434 other House seats and 33 Senate races to worry about.

    Third, what that means is that whoever runs in GA-06 as a Democrat is not going to have the benefit of national attention and a huge amount of money to spend like Ossoff did.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  43. @HarvardLaw92:

    If Democrats are going to win House elections in 2018, it[‘s not going to be by pouring a lot of resources into a race in a R+8 district against an incumbent. There are winnable districts for them in 2018 but GA-06 is not likely to be one of them. They had their chance with Ossoff in April. Had he won a majority of the overall vote there would have been no runoff and he’d be the incumbent in 2018. Once it became a race of one Republican v. one Democrat, the odds were always against him.

    You can claim his performance as some kind of “moral victory” if you want, but there’s another word for “moral victory”……. it’s called “a loss.” In the end, coming close only counts in horseshoes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  44. Gavrilo says:

    @Jen:

    Actually, the real story in that case would be that against Tom Price, a living, breathing, actual member of Congress had a portion of the electorate that would rather vote for a candidate no one had ever even seen than him.

    If I were Tom Price, I might be slightly embarrassed that the margin wasn’t greater, but there’s definitely a portion of the electorate that will vote straight party affiliation regardless. Plus, Dems are funny. In 2010, a completely unknown guy named Alvin Greene handily defeated a career politician in the SC Senate primary. The point is that everyone is talking out of their ass when making comparisons between the margin yesterday and the margin last November. The Dems threw everything they had into this race and lost. Ossoff had more money than any congressional candidate in history, in an affluent, educated Republican district that wasn’t at all sold on Donald Trump in November. He still couldn’t get it done.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  45. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’m not claiming it as anything more than an expensive win for Republicans in a race that should have been a cakewalk for them. Republican fundraising suffered in 2016. It’ll suffer again in 2018 because Trump doesn’t like fundraising and they get the added burden of having Trump hung around their necks. The whole game is about stretching Republicans as thinly as possible. It’s the death of 1,000 cuts.

    She has to defend this seat in 2018. Who’s to say we won’t run Ossoff again?

    I don’t expect to win it. I do welcome the chance to use it to make the GOP’s life more difficult. It’s just how the game is played.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

  46. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Gavrilo:

    He still couldn’t get it done.

    Yup…he came within a couple points in a Republican stronghold. What’s that mean for all the seats that are actually at risk?

    there’s definitely a portion of the electorate that will vote straight party affiliation regardless

    Pot, meet kettle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  47. @HarvardLaw92:

    As I said, I think it’s far too early to make any predictions about what might or might not happen in 2018.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  48. @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    The truth of the matter is that there are not likely to be a lot of House seats that are “at risk” in 2018. And, in the end, it’s entirely possible that the number of “at risk” seats will be well below what it would take for Democrats to take back the House.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  49. @HarvardLaw92:

    Also, you’re missing the other point I made. Namely, that it’s not likely that you’re going to see $50 million pouring into GA-06 or any other individual house race for that matter. As I said, it’s not an efficient use of resources in a General Election where both sides will have more winnable House seats to worry about, not to mention a race for Senate control where, at least on paper, there appear to be far more vulnerable Democrats than Republicans at the moment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  50. James Pearce says:

    @MBunge:

    But virtually no one in the Party, the liberal movement or the media have bothered to ask why.

    Well, that’s not exactly true. The sense I get is that the smartest people on the left recognize what went wrong in 16 and are ready to make the necessary changes needed to appeal –once again– to the American voter, but….

    It’s not easy. Certain myths must be dispelled, and they’re sticky. Certain priorities must re-align.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  51. Todd says:

    2018 is still a long ways off, and a lot can happen between now and then. However I generally agree with Doug, and said so in a comment on another post a week or so ago. If Democrats couldn’t win this race with all the money and all the attention comma it’s pretty hard to conceive of a scenario where they’re able to take back the house in 2018. To do so, they will need to win some of these suburban Republican-held districts … and unless there’s a wave, how do they do that with less money and less attention on each of these type of districts?

    Part of me wants to say that the Democrats best chance will be if president Trump fires special counsel Mueller, and 2018 becomes a referendum on impeachment. But even then, I’m really not sure that enough Republicans would care for the Democrats to be able to win enough seats to take the house.

    This is what happens when we live in a world of partisan “facts”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  52. Gavrilo says:

    John Ossoff spent $8.3 million to get 48.1% in the April Primary. Despite spending another $15+ million in the run-off he didn’t improve his percentage of the vote by even 0.1%.

    His campaign was a failure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9

  53. @Todd:

    I already see some Democrats, mostly talking heads that appear on CNN and MSNBC, arguing that Democrats need to make 2018 a referendum on impeachment. Maybe that will end up working if the Russia investigation and revelations get worse or if Trump does something really stupid like fire Mueller. It could also end up backfiring on them, though, by doing as much to energize Republicans as it does Democrats.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  54. Todd says:

    @Doug Mataconis: if we get to 2018 and we’re still in the situation comparable to what we are now, then yes I agree Democrats calling for impeachment will probably be a losing strategy. If Trump does fire Mueller, especially if he finds something, then the Democrats will really have no choice but to make the election a referendum on impeachment. Maybe I’m just becoming a cynic but, I think even in that scenario it’s not a sure thing that the Democrats win. In some way Trump’s shoot someone on 5th Avenue prediction was not far off. I fear that President Trump could fire special counsel Mueller and Republicans wouldn’t suffer significantly for it. That’s the world we live in

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  55. @Todd:

    Republican voters are likely to remain loyal to Trump unless and until we reach a bitter end like we did with Nixon.

    The question will be where the voters in the middle, the ones who self-identify as independents, end up being. Right now Trump’s job approval numbers among independents are about the same as they are nationwide as a whole. If those voters end up turning against Trump in bigger and bigger numbers, then Trump and the GOP will suffer the consequences.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  56. Kylopod says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It could also end up backfiring on them, though, by doing as much to energize Republicans as it does Democrats.

    True. Everyone’s got their own pet theories to explain this and other electoral outcomes, but for what it’s worth, mine is that Dems spend too much time standing back and expecting Republicans to implode on their own from their self-evident awfulness. It’s part of what went wrong for them in 2016, and they’re still doing it today.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  57. @Kylopod:

    Dems spend too much time standing back and expecting Republicans to implode

    Republicans spent a lot of time expecting Democrats to do the same thing in 2012 after they won back the House in 2010.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  58. Mikey says:

    @Kylopod:

    Everyone’s got their own pet theories to explain this and other electoral outcomes, but for what it’s worth, mine is that Dems spend too much time standing back and expecting Republicans to implode on their own from their self-evident awfulness.

    I agree with this. Even if the awfulness were as self-evident to the Republicans, which it isn’t, it would still take a lot of time for most to admit it. They won’t move until they have a better alternative, and “but Trump SUCKS!” isn’t one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  59. teve tory says:

    @Kylopod: Indeed, being reprehensible cretins hasn’t stopped them from claiming all 3 branches of government.

    Maybe we really are headed toward a crisis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  60. Jen says:

    I already see some Democrats, mostly talking heads that appear on CNN and MSNBC, arguing that Democrats need to make 2018 a referendum on impeachment.

    ARGGGHHH. This makes me crazy. No, no, no. This is as bad as the clowns who keep re-litigating the primary.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  61. Jack says:

    — DEM OPERATIVE QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We no longer have a party caucus capable of riding this wave. We have 80-year-old leaders and 90-year-old ranking members. This isn’t a party. It’s a giant assisted living center. Complete with field trips, gym, dining room and attendants.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 12

  62. gVOR08 says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Republican voters are likely to remain loyal to Trump unless and until we reach a bitter end like we did with Nixon.

    There are various “fundamentals” election models that incorporate “voter fatigue”, the idea that after one party has held the White House for awhile the voters get in a “throw the bums” out mood. This accounts for the rarity of a party holding the WH for more than two terms, H. W. Bush as Reagan’s third term being the only example since WWII.

    There is an alternate way to look at this that I think has some validity. Republicans are the party of the wealthy and the establishment. As such, they have more money and more resources so they’re the default party. Democrats are sort of the Washington Generals to the Republicans Harlem Globetrotters. (Not to imply they’re any good at governing, but they sure are good at politics.) The electorate default to Rs until they screw up and then they go with Dems until normalcy is restored and they feel safe in going back to the Rs. I don’t recall Eisenhower had any serious problem, but since then Nixon had Watergate on top of Vietnam, HW had a recession, and W had the dawning realization that invading Iraq was stupid capped by the ’08 financial follies. I fear what Trump will produce, but hope it won’t be fatal to the Republic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  63. gVOR08 says:

    Remember a couple years ago when conventional wisdom was that the Rs were doomed because of demographic changes? Well, the demographic trends haven’t gone away. Rs have the same problem Cadillac marketing has, their traditional market is literally dying off.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  64. teve tory says:

    @gVOR08:

    Glad you understand that. I see so many comments after the last few months like “Well Sooo Much for ‘Demographic Changes’!”

    Nope. Still there. Young people more liberal than before. Less religious than before. Average age of Fox viewer still ‘In ICU’…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  65. Kylopod says:

    @gVOR08: @teve tory: One of the things both sides of this debate overlook, but which the 2016 election called attention to, is that our system is skewed toward white people. The Senate and the Electoral College. due to the extreme parity they grant between low- and high-population states, give white voters power far out of proportion to their numbers in the general populace, and minimize the influence of minorities. Whatever problems the demographic changes pose for the GOP are lessened by the very structure of the electoral system.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  66. wr says:

    @TM01: “Maybe the voters of GA-06 were just upset at the outside forces from places such as California trying to influence, or hack if you will, an election in which they can’t vote.”

    Hey, loser,

    Handel had more out of state money than Ossof.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  67. al-Ameda says:

    @TM01:

    Maybe they were resisting the obvious collusion between Ossof and people such as Nancy Pelosi.

    Do you know what collusion is?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  68. John430 says:

    “That win, though, only happened because Brown happened to be the right kind of Republican to appeal to voters in a very red state…”

    From your mouth to God’s ear, Doug, but methinks MA is hardly a red state.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  69. Guarneri says:

    @wr:

    Handel had more outsidemoney. That’s odd:

    http://theglitteringeye.com/politics-is-still-local/

    Courtesy Dave Schuler and The New York Times

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  70. Matt says:

    @Gavrilo: Hi what you would consider a “lefty” here. I didn’t believe he was going to win because the race was a statistical tie and the seat has been Republican for 38 years straight. The fact that the race was that close actually surprised me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  71. Steve V says:
  72. Ben Wolf says:

    It’s a mistake to think Democrats care about acquiring political power. The goal of party insiders is to advance their fortunes via political patronage withe their large donors, not building control of public offices.

    Once this is understood their record of refusing to change strategy or tactics in the face of failure after failure becomes comprehensible, as does their inability to hide their contempt for working-class voters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

  73. Ben Wolf says:

    The Iron Law of Institutions has also taken its hand in wrecking the Democratic Party. The DNC under Obama and the DCCC under Pelosi were allowed to ossify. Neither politician showed or has shown the slightest concern for those institutions beyond their usefulness in maintaining their own fortunes. So we had four left-wing Democratic candidates in the last two months who received virtually no support from either group (a number of DCCC officials appear to have not realized a Democrat, Archie Parnell was even running), yet outperformed in deeply red districts, while both organizations set millions on fire for a centrist in Georgia who under-performed.

    Democrats are living in a rotted house thinking a coat of paint and some vinyl blinds will fix the problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  74. Blue Galangal says:

    @al-Ameda: There’s something more sinister (and deliberate) at work here, and that’s the ongoing co-opting of very precise terms – such as collusion – through broadening their use to to render their actual meaning almost useless and, in the process, spread the tar and feathers around. Trump and the GOP actually colluded with Russia to throw the election in their favour. But Nancy Pelosi and the DNC giving money to a Democratic candidate in a House race will now be called “collusion;” the pundits/media will not call them out on it and pretty soon it will become “but both sides do it.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  75. teve tory says:

    @Kylopod: I’ve been thinking about that problem for a while. Slavery, which led to the Electoral College system, is still boning us royally.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  76. gVOR08 says:

    @Blue Galangal: In comments on Dr. Taylor’s post today there’s a lot of talk about not needing a unified Democratic message as each candidate must come up with what fits their district. However on the GOP side there are a wealth of institutions devoted to messaging. They have been very successful at changing language, as you expect they will with “collude”. “Entitlement” once meant of course you’re entitled to your Social Security, you paid for it. “Elite” once meant wealthy and powerful. “Liberal” was a compliment. (And still is as far as I’m concerned.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1