Georgia Special Election: Can Ossoff, Democrats Pull off a Miracle?
Democrats and Republicans are bracing for a long night as voters go to the polls today in Georgia’s conservative 12th district special election.
In a race that may turn on whether voters think President Donald Trump needs more power or should be stopped, Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel have spent months trying to convince voters that they should be sent to Washington, D.C.
It all comes to a head today and after spending nearly $70 million on a House race that a few months ago wasn’t even on anyone’s radar, both candidates say they are cautiously optimistic of victory.
For Democrats, this suburban Atlanta district presents the best opportunity to date to send a powerful message to President Trump and the GOP about elections in 2018 and 2020.
Victory in tonight’s special election will be a huge boost to the new momentum the party believes it has going into 2018. A loss by Ossoff is seen by political insiders as a major blow to that ambition.
For a district that has voted overwhelmingly Republican the past few cycles, Karen Handel is having a hard time convincing these suburbanites that they should vote for her.
Going into the final weekend, the polls were neck and neck with Ossoff ahead by a point although most experts say it is a dead heat.
Should the GOP lose the seat vacated by current Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, experts say Trump will be blamed for the loss.
A loss tonight may also give Republicans a reason to pause and reassess their agenda.
If Handel wins, that will send a powerful message to the Republican party that despite all the hoopla in the media these last few months about President Trump’s agenda, that opposition may not be as strong as Democrats believe and may not be enough to stop the Trump agenda in 2018 and 2020.
“We need to start winning to send a powerful message to President Trump and GOP leaders in the Senate and House that we will be ready next year (2018) but if we lose, that will also send the opposite message to the GOP,” said a Democrat operative this weekend.
“In Kansas and Montana special elections, it was virtually impossible for us to pull those off. They were in such strong Republican strongholds. Georgia is also a Republican seat but we think this presents the best opportunity for us to win,” he added.
Both Ossoff and Handel have sought to conform their messages mostly to local issues with occasional national politics sprinkled in. Both candidates also downplayed the national implication of the race but with nearly $70 million spent on the race, the significance was obvious.
Ossoff began his campaign a few months ago a strident opponent of Donald Trump. He has moderated his stance in recent months after telling the media he recognized that he needed moderate Republicans to pull off victory.
“This race is not about Republicans or Democrats. It is about the 12th district in Georgia. We need fresh ideas, fresh leaders in Washington and that is why I believe it is important who wins tonight,” Ossoff said on MSNBC this morning.
“Karen Handel will just be a rubber stamp for Trump’s ideas whether they are good for the district or not. My goal is to not just be the opposition but to ask questions and make sure that laws favor the folks at home in my district whether they identify as Democrats or Republicans.”
He was optimistic of victory over the weekend.
“Let’s send a message across this country that fear and hate and division are not welcome in Georgia,” Ossoff said at his Sandy Springs office over the weekend, “that Georgians stand up instead for unity and for progress.”
“I’ve consistently said I’ll stand up to President Trump if he embarrasses us or threatens our interests and that I’m willing to work with him on issues of mutual interest,” Ossoff told reporters.
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