Thursday, 22 June, 2017

Georgia House race to high-stakes runoff as Trump wades in

Georgia special election goes to runoff Joe Raedle Getty Images Jon Ossoff
Melinda Barton | 20 April, 2017, 07:27

Jon Ossoff, a young Democrat, almost pulled off what could have a been a stunning victory in a special congressional election in a heavily Republican district in Georgia that had turned into something of a referendum on President Donald Trump.

Trump, who attacked Ossoff in recent days as a liberal shill and mocked him for living outside of the district, crowed on Twitter about the outcome in Georgia following Democrats' failure to win a different special election in Kansas last week.

A novice Democratic candidate has weathered attacks from President Donald Trump to finish well ahead of his Republican rivals in a much-watched congressional race in the U.S. state of Georgia.

After finishing second out of 18 candidates with 19.8% of the vote in the special election - and first among 11 Republicans - Handel will now square off with Ossoff in a June runoff. If Ossoff had won at least 50%, he would have secured the seat outright.

The Democrat, however, led a crowded 18-candidate field in Tuesday's all-party contest to fill the House seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Special elections will hold particular importance for Democrats this year, as Republicans now control both the House and Senate.

It was a near-miss for Democrats in Georgia's 6th Congressional District - and President Donald Trump was crowing about the opposition party falling short. Now Handel (who got less than 20 percent Tuesday night) has to put together a much broader pool of voters, including college-educated whites souring on Trump and die-hard Trump supporters. It also serves notice that GOP candidates may always struggle to handle Trump's polarizing effects; he engenders an intense loyalty among his core supporters but alienates many independents and even Republicans. "Glad to be of help!"

The Democrat lost that race by seven percentage points, but the party sought to spin the result as a positive, pointing out that Trump won the district in November by 27 points. Anything short of describing that as a loss is sort of inconceivable to me in the sense that's what they said their goal was to do. However, three-fourths of the votes were cast on at the voting booth and 58 percent of them went for Handel and the 10 other Republican candidates.

David Nir, political director for Daily Kos, talks with Rachel Maddow about how Donald Trump has motivated a grassroots backlash that threatens traditionally Republican congressional seats.

On the morning of the election, the President tweeted and called for a wave against Ossoff. As the senior Democratic strategist tells me: "She's going to have to rip away some of the people who voted for Ossoff". "We defied the odds, shattered expectations, and now are ready to fight on and win in June", said Ossoff.

An Ossoff win would not tip the balance of power in Washington, where Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress.

The Ossoff political threat drew the personal interest of Trump, who recorded a robocall urging Republicans to troop to the polls and block the Democratic upstart.

What's more, Ossoff outperformed Hillary Clinton's margin in the district in 2016, squeezing out more votes even in Cobb County - the most Republican of the counties that make up the seat.