Georgia’s Karen Handel pins another defeat
on the anti-Trump left.
Last night viewers of cable news were the first to learn that Republican Karen Handel had defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in the special election to fill a U.S. House seat in Georgia. Long before any news outlet formally declared Ms. Handel’s victory, CNN and MSNBC regulars disclosed the outcome with their funereal tones and cheerless visages. It’s becoming a competitive advantage for the two cable nets on election nights, allowing viewers to learn unofficial results with one glance at the screen.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow seems to have been so distraught over the emerging defeat in Georgia that she abandoned the subject and resumed “connecting the dots” among people President Trump or his acquaintances may have known. Your humble correspondent did not stay on the channel long enough to know if she made it all the way to Kevin Bacon, but found it useful to learn her unequivocal if unspoken statement about Georgia.
When you're well underwater on approval w/no major legislative wins & cloud of probe, even winning @GOP strongholds is cause 4 celebration. https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/877372660455546880 …
Ms. Maddow’s implicit forecast was accurate. Ms. Handel ended up winning by four percentage points, a bigger margin than Republican Ralph Norman enjoyed in winning Tuesday’s South Carolina special election that nobody expected to be close. Now what?
Liberals may need some time and space to get over the Georgia result. In the New York Times, Frank Bruni captures the anguish of Democrats—and not just the ones who work in the media industry:
They ached for this seat. They fought for it fiercely. They reasoned that Ossoff had a real chance: Donald Trump, after all, won this district by just 1.5 percentage points. Donations for Ossoff flooded in, helping to make this the most expensive House race in history by far.
Democrats came up empty-handed nonetheless. So a party sorely demoralized in November is demoralized yet again — and left to wonder if the intense anti-Trump passion visible in protests, marches, money and new volunteers isn’t just some theatrical, symbolic, abstract thing.
Good question. Maybe it’s not a majority-building, vote-winning, concrete thing. Democrats might start by asking whether they can persuade moderate voters to join their coalition by preaching “resistance” to a legitimate government and—without a shred of evidence—accusing a duly-elected president of treason.
Then there are lots of tactical questions. Even before Election Day in Georgia, Slate noted that the Ossoff campaign would be relying on strong turnout from people who were not easy to find:
Last month Jessica Zeigler, a precinct captain for Jon Ossoff’s congressional campaign, realized that reaching millennial voters was almost impossible. Young voters are often registered at their parents’ address, and many of those parents are enraged when Democratic canvassers show up at their door.
So Mr. Ossoff’s campaign seems to have enraged some voters, while others were not as enraged at Mr. Trump as you might think from consuming national news. Perhaps answering Mr. Bruni’s question of whether anti-Trump passion is largely theatrical—and also explaining the challenge facing Democrats— Josh Kraushaar writes in the National Journal:
Here’s why their math is more daunting today. Democrats need to net 24 House seats next year to gain a majority. Georgia-06 is the 28th-most-Democratic district that Republicans hold (based on Hillary Clinton’s vote percentage in 2016). For Nancy Pelosi to become speaker again, Democrats would need to nearly run the table in more-favorable districts—or pick off seats in places even more forgiving of Trump. It’s possible, but a little less likely given Tuesday night’s results.
One Democratic operative tracking House races said the generic ballot is around 6-7 points in their favor. To regain a House majority, it needs to be closer to a double-digit advantage by next November.
The big tell that the race wasn’t as favorable for Democrats as the early conventional wisdom was when Ossoff’s paid messaging never mentioned Trump, and barely mentioned the GOP’s health care efforts—despite the uproar against both in Washington. Democrats saw polling, confirmed by good shoe-leather reporting, that the district’s skepticism of Trump was not nearly as red-hot as most people expected based on cable news coverage.
This column has noted previously that voters seem to approve of Mr. Trump’s agenda—particularly his focus on American economic revival—much more than they approve of Mr. Trump. This suggests that many voters see his well-documented flaws as worthy of serious consideration, but not a grave threat to the republic.
Bold move Cotton
7:09 AM - 21 Jun 2017
Of course most of the credit for Ms. Handel’s win belongs to Ms. Handel. On Tuesday night campaign volunteers in Georgia and television viewers around the country saw a gracious and dignified winner. She offered a serious and timely message of reconciliation and civility in the wake of last week’s attempted political assassinations.
Republicans remain undefeated in special elections since Mr. Trump’s November victory. And they haven’t even cut taxes yet.