My family sat down for dinner at a nice Amish family’s house in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday night, less than two hours before the polls closed in Georgia’s 6th District. And Jon Ossoff’s name didn’t come up once. That’s not surprising, but it is what happens when special elections collide with Spring Break.
The most-watched special election of the cycle (until the next one) ended with the young Georgia Democrat finishing first with 48 percent, in the all-party primary but short of the what he needed to win former Republican Rep. Tom Price’s seat outright. Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel finished second with almost 20 percent and both candidates move on to the June 20 runoff.
As with most elections, there is the temptation to boil everything down to a single conclusion, but elections (and life in general) are never that simple. And there is enough in the Georgia results for both parties to crow about.
Inspired once again by Peter King and his team at Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback, I decided to jot down eight “things I think I think” after the Georgia election results.
1. The Republican majority in the House was at risk before the results in Georgia. The Republican majority is at risk after the results in Georgia. Sound familiar? The president’s party has lost House seats in 18 of the last 20 midterm elections going back to 1938. In those 18 elections, the president’s party has lost an average of 33 seats. Democrats need to gain 24 seats in November 2018 to regain the majority.
2. I expect Ossoff to lose the June 20 runoff, but am not convinced of it yet. The Republican field has consolidated down to one candidate and the GOP has two more months to drive up Ossoff’s negatives. But Ossoff, in turn, finally has a chance to focus on a single Republican (and Handel has lost races before, albeit primaries). We’re keeping our toss-up rating for the runoff for now. That being said, losing this special election doesn’t mean Democrats can’t do well in November 2018, as Stu Rothenberg wrote in February. Republicans have some serious challenges next year.
3. Following Ossoff’s blueprint won’t be easy. His fundraising has been extraordinary. Truly stunning. He’ll probably top $10 million raised (in less than six months) before the race is over. That’s more than some incumbent senators raise in an entire cycle. Democrats can be excited about their performance in Georgia by outperforming President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 totals, but most (probably all) Democratic House challengers next year won’t have the financial advantage that Ossoff enjoyed in this special election. Democrats will have to be more efficient and creative in boosting turnout.
4. If you are a Democrat and can’t raise money, you’re doing it wrong. A 30-year old former Capitol Hill staffer who didn’t live in the district, raised millions of dollars for a House race in Georgia that hadn’t been contested in years. Sure, Ossoff benefited from being essentially the only game in country for Democrats itching for a fight, but there is no mistaking that there is a Democratic appetite to support candidates. Now is the time for Democratic candidates to take advantage of the mood before it fades away.
5. We need a better line of communication between the Georgia Secretary of State and the District of Columbia Public Schools. Scheduling the most anticipated special election during Spring Break was not a great idea. I might have been the only one in the county paying attention to Georgia’s 6th District last night. All that being said, if you are a city slicker looking for a place to pay to do chores that normal Americans do as part of their everyday life, I highly recommend Rocky Acre Farm in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. And their Wi-Fi helped me finish this piece.
6. The Ossoff campaign became this decade’s Obama campaign. Helping Ossoff became the “it” thing to do on the Democratic side. Politicians from far and wide sent out fundraising emails for the young candidate, celebrities contributed and headed to the district to help. My Roll Call colleague Simone Pathé even spotted Gretchen Driskell, the 2016 Democratic nominee in Michigan’s 7th District, at an Ossoff event (her manager is Ossoff’s manager). If there had been an awards show on Sunday night, someone would have worn on Ossoff T-shirt onstage.
7. Pretty genius of Ossoff campaign to coordinate the release of the new Star Wars trailer. Republicans opened the campaign by attacking the Democrat for once dressing up as Han Solo. Democrats closed by unveiling the first trailer for the latest Star Wars movie (The Last Jedi) scheduled for theaters this Christmas — about the time Ossoff announces his bid for governor of Georgia.
8. I love playoff hockey. It’s my annual time of the year to root for the Washington Capitals, get emotionally invested in a sport I don’t even care about, and then have my heart crushed by their ultimate collapse. I fall into the same trap every year. I blame Brownback.