Consider this an example of the soft flexibility of low expectations. Having allowed Democrats and progressive groups to nearly steal a march on them in what should have been a relatively safe district, Republicans put up an Election Day response that barely snagged them a runoff in Georgia’s 6th congressional district. Jon Ossoff only got 48.1% of the vote, setting up a June election with Karen Handel, who got just under 20% to come in second out of 18 candidates.
Late last night, Donald Trump celebrated the “BIG “R” win” on Twitter:
Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG "R" win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 19, 2017
Just how big was the win? As it turns out, perhaps more impressive than one would conclude at first blush. Even after dumping $8.3 million into the race and having Republicans fracture their vote across eleven candidates, Democrats still couldn’t pull Ossoff across the finish line to avoid the runoff. Democrats didn’t even win a majority of the overall vote; Ossoff and the other Democratic and unaffiliated candidates got 94,087 votes in total (using Decision Desk HQ numbers), while Republicans combined for 97,997 votes, despite a lack of organization and resources dedicated to the special election.
Trump jumped into this race in the last few days, cheerleading for Republican turnout on Election Day to counter Democratic organizing and pushing out a robocall to GA-06 voters. How did that work out? As CBS News reports … remarkably well:
There were big differences between the early vote and the Election Day vote. Ossoff did well in that early vote and jumped out to an initial lead as those ballots were counted, perhaps reflecting the Democratic enthusiasm that marked his rise. But the Election Day vote was very heavily Republican, and it pushed Ossoff back under the 50 percent level.
CBS News etimates showed up to twenty-point gaps between the early and Election Day votes as the county reports came in – perhaps reflecting a late surge in Republican interest in the race and what appears to have been strong, late turnout efforts from the GOP.
Overall, turnout was high for a Special Election and, with a few more precincts left to count early Wednesday, it appeared Ossoff would end up with about the same percent Hillary Clinton got in the district in November.
Given the partisan leanings of the district, Republican Handel would have to be favored heading into the runoff.
Ya think? One has to wonder just how many more millions of dollars Democrats will pour into these special elections, rather than shepherd those resources for the midterms. Ossoff’s not going to get another $8.3 million for the runoff, and Republicans are on notice in GA-06 now. They’re not going to get caught with their pants down a second time in a two-way race. All those Hollywood celebrities who glommed onto Ossoff’s campaign in the final days will find better things to do with their time.
At any rate, Trump earned the right to crow about the results last night. One could claim that Republicans turned out despite Trump’s intervention, but that would be a very tough argument to make. The more obvious conclusion is that his gamble on the district paid off, which makes last night’s results a “big” win for Trump, if not necessarily for Republicans who nearly let this one slip through their fingers.