Alternate headline: Blogger suddenly feels more optimistic about Georgia runoffs. All Jon Ossoff had to do is restrain from linking himself to the extremes of his own party while Donald Trump suppressed the MAGA vote with his amplification of corruption conspiracy theories about the voting system. Instead, Ossoff practically endorsed the campaign messaging from the GOP that paints Ossoff as a Trojan horse for hard-Left.
To be fair, CNN’s Dana Bash painted him into that corner on yesterday’s State of the Union:
BASH: Before I let you go, Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed you yesterday. He is vying to be labor secretary in the Biden administration. So, he backed you. Do you support him in that endeavor?
OSSOFF: I’m not making recommendations to the administration on Cabinet picks. But I appreciate the senator’s support and look forward to working with him to fight for a $15 minimum wage, to put the interests of working families ahead of corporate lobbyists in Washington, to address this climate crisis, invest in clean energy, and look out for ordinary working people for a change, instead of people who have bought access and power in Washington.
BASH: OK, so you’re not pushing to endorse a Cabinet pick. I understand that. Do you want Senator Sanders to come down and campaign with you?
OSSOFF: We will see. I haven’t had that kind of discussion with him, but I welcome his support. And, again, look, I think that he advocacy for ensuring that health care is a human right in this country, for putting the interests of working families over corporate interests is welcome, is necessary, is appreciated, and so is his support.
What makes this doubly amusing is that Ossoff basically botched this in three key ways. First, all he really needed to say is that he was his own man, and would consider Georgia voters over Washington thought leaders. Instead, Ossoff’s instinct is to cite Vermont’s socialist senator as one of his guiding lights. Strike one.
But just as bad is Ossoff’s attempt to dodge the very legitimate question that Bash asked. If elected, the first votes Ossoff would cast would be on confirmations of Joe Biden’s Cabinet picks. With Bernie Sanders’ endorsement, opposing his nomination would be awkward (and why did Sanders inject himself into the Georgia runoff anyway?), but Ossoff could have said that voters seem to have sent a message about moderation and compromise, not ideology and confrontation. That could have assuaged concerns over Ossoff’s impact on the Senate. Instead, he dodged the question while singing Sanders’ praises on health care, where Sanders’ radical plan to put all care under the direction of the federal government in Medicare for All is practically the embodiment of American neo-socialist extremism. Strike two.
As bad as this is tactically, it’s even worse from a strategic perspective. Republicans have unloaded on Raphael Warnock with all sorts of oppo-research hits that paint him as a radical leftist, and probably have more coming. The only hope for Democrats is to have Ossoff succeed in running to the center against David Perdue and hope his coattails pull Warnock along to victory. Instead, Ossoff can’t get out of the hard-Left lane, not even when it’s relatively easy to do so. Strike three.
If Republicans can just get out of their own way, this should be a relatively easy runoff election to win. Democrats hardly put their best and brightest on the ticket here.