It’s been interesting seeing the spin on yesterday’s special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.
What was at stake was a seat in the US House of Representatives, so whatever the outcome, it wasn’t going to change the composition of Congress. But the contest was felt to be symbolic of things to come, and therefore Democrats were intent on taking the seat away from Republicans.
That might have happened last night if the Democrat Jon Ossoff, 30 years old, had managed to get at least 50% of the vote against a Republican field that featured 11 Republican opponents to split the vote on the GOP side (there were some other obscure Democrats running, too, but the Democratic push was to unite and vote for Rosoff, and they did). Instead, he got 48.1%, with Republican Karen Handel getting the largest number of votes of the GOP candidates and winning the right to face Ossoff in the runoff.
Ossoff’s total is similar to the results in the district in the presidential contest in 2016 which saw Trump win there by only 1.5%. So yesterday’s vote seems like a pretty unsurprising outcome to me under the highly-charged circumstances, but it’s being regarded as evidence of something far more important—exactly what, though, depends on who’s doing the analyzing.
Donald Trump considers it a victory, considering how much money the Democrats pumped into this race:
“Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG “R” win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!” the president tweeted late Tuesday.
Ossoff himself thought he might be able to win it all:
“The campaign’s goal is not to get into a runoff, though we’ll be ready to fight a runoff if necessary,” Ossoff said in early April. “The campaign’s goal is to win this election outright on April 18.”
On Tuesday morning, Osoff [sic] said the campaign was within “striking distance” of that goal, thanks to a surge in early voter turnout. Democrats vowed to press on should a runoff be required.
“Today was a great day. We saw what looks like pretty high expected turnout. And just could not be happier and more impressed with the community leaders who came out not just today but for the past months and built this special movement,” Ossoff campaign manager Keenan Pontini told Yahoo News, in the waning hours of voting.
The money Ossoff raised was unprecedented for a primary race for the House, and he made the goal of his campaign very clear: voting for him was a way to vote against Trump:
Ossoff electrified national Democrats with a message of anti-Trump resistance, running on a platform of “Make Trump Furious,” and pulled in a record $8.3 million by the end of the first quarter of the year, mostly in small donations and with more than 90 percent of the money coming from out of state. Candidates in contests like the GA-06 primary normally raise only $10,000 or so…
In addition to his unprecedented war chest, Ossoff had a deep well of skilled presidential campaign organizers to draw from as staff and volunteers, thanks to the race being the first competitive contest since the recently concluded presidential campaigns. And he had the support of more than 10,000 volunteers — both from around the country and from an array of vibrant local Trump-era resistance groups
So this essentially becamse a national campaign on the part of the Democrats.
None of this means that Ossoff won’t beat Handel in the runoff. He could, and that would be a victory. I have little doubt that the Democrats will pour vast resources into the endeavor, in order to rally their angry voters and improve morale by getting an unaccustomed victory in a district where Republicans used to win as a matter of course.