New GA runoff poll shows ... what momentum looks like?

Well, maybe. Democrats for some reason bragged about an internal poll in Georgia’s 6th Congressional district runoff election last week which showed their candidate, Jon Ossoff, picking up absolutely no more support than the 48% he got in the all-in primary. Instead, Republican Karen Handel jumped from 19% to 47% in a week. When Ossoff declared on Twitter that “this is what momentum looks like!”, one could be forgiven for wondering just who he meant to promote.

Last night, a new poll from WSB and Landmark Communications showed Handel with slightly more momentum, if it can be called that, narrowly edging Ossoff by less than three points:

A new WSB-TV, Landmark Communications poll shows Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff are neck-and-neck in the tightly contested 6th Congressional District race.

The new poll of 611 likely voters shows Handel with 49.1 percent of the vote and Ossoff with 46.5 percent. …

Landmark Communications President Mark Rountree says this shows Handel may be consolidating Republicans around her campaign.

“There were more Republicans that actually voted, or more people who voted Republican I should say, and they’re now getting behind Handel in bigger numbers. And she has now taken the lead in the race. It’s a small lead, but she has taken a small lead,” Rountree said.

Basically, this poll shows the same situation as the previous internal Democratic poll: a virtual tie. Both polls have a ±4% margin of error, and both polls had a small but significant group of undecideds. For a fairly conservative district, having a Republican in a virtual tie six weeks before a runoff isn’t a bad position for a Democratic to have … theoretically speaking.

However, the real story here is pretty much what Rountree says. Handel came out of an eleven-candidate Republican field that had a contentious primary to consolidate most of the GOP vote in just a couple of weeks. The combined Republican vote came in three thousand higher than combined non-Republicans in the primary, and it appears that Handel has managed to at least maintain that much separation in this poll (with MoE caveats, of course). Ossoff and Democrats poured over $8 million into the district already, and this poll suggests that he’s not doing much better than what a district with a Cook Index of R+8 would produce for two generic candidates — a 54/46 GOP win.

Bear in mind that this is just one poll, the first from the media for the June 20th grudge match. RealClearPolitics hasn’t even set up a runoff tracker for polling in this district yet, so we don’t have a good aggregation on which to rely. On top of all that, special election turnout models are so unpredictable that they tell us nothing predictive for the next regular cycle. In other words, don’t place your bets quite yet, but the two polls we’ve seen strongly suggest that Handel has generated a lot of momentum among Republicans very quickly, while Ossoff seems to have stalled, and might be falling back. Unfortunately for Democrats, they went all-in on this one already.