Perhaps there really is no such thing as bad publicity. Or good publicity either, for that matter. Democrat Jon Ossoff led the all-in primary to replace Tom Price in the House last month with 48% of the vote, while Republicans fractured across eleven different candidates. Republican Karen Handel ended up in the runoff with just under 20% of the vote.
Two weeks later, Democratic pollster John Anzalone hailed Ossoff’s strong position in the upcoming June 20th runoff, while Ossoff bragged, “this is what momentum looks like”:
— Jon Ossoff (@ossoff) May 2, 2017
— John Anzalone (@JohnAnzo) May 2, 2017
So that’s what momentum looks like — moving up from 48% of the vote to, er … 48% of the vote. Bear in mind that this data comes from a Democratic pollster working for the Ossoff campaign, and that the survey has a ±4% margin of error. One has to wonder why they’re even bragging about this result, considering that it shows absolutely no movement to Ossoff since the primary. That may explain why they waited several days to release the memo, though; the polling took place between April 23-26, the week after the primary.
However, Ossoff does have this much correct — it’s what momentum looks like. He’s just assigning it to the wrong candidate. Handel went from 19.8% to 47% in a week, answering the question of whether Handel could consolidate the Republican vote. It might still look a bit like underperforming in a district that has a Cook index of R+8, but so far Democrats have spent almost three times as much as Republicans to win this seat, too. Now that the RNC and the NRCC have awoken to the threat in GA-06, they’ll be putting more significant resources into this runoff, and the efforts should start to balance out.
Dave Weigel notes that the race is already a virtual tie even with some unfinished business in the district:
Republicans, surprised by their underdog status in a seat that has been deep red for more than 30 years, are encouraged by any sign of Handel consolidating votes. She has not nabbed the endorsement of Dan Moody, a former legislator who ran fourth in the primary, but she enjoyed a burst of donations after the first round and a burst of attention when President Trump arrived in Atlanta for the National Rifle Association of America conference and a fundraiser.
“You’d better win,” the president joked to Handel, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Heading into the runoff’s third week, Handel also had the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which went on the air with a TV ad attacking the Democrat as a “Hollywood” candidate, a theme in ads from the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is aligned with Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).
Even without a full slate of endorsements, though, Handel has rapidly united Republican voters in her district. And you don’t have to take her word for it, either. Just ask Ossoff’s pollster.
Update: It was Ossoff who made the momentum remark, not Anzalone. I’ve corrected it above.