The political world’s attention is focused on the special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. In the race to replace Republican Rep. Tom Price, who Trump named Secretary of Health and Human Services, Democrat Jon Ossoff is getting all of the attention. The 30-year-old first time candidate is running in a field of 18. He needs to get 50% today to avoid a runoff in June.
The district has voted solidly Republican for decades, though Trump won it by less than two points. It’s the type of district that Democrats hope can take them back to the majority. It’s a suburban district with high incomes and educated voters. It’s not the type of place enamored with Trump or the GOP’s social conservative agenda.
Democrats have poured resources into the district and Ossoff has raised more than $8 million, much of it online from donors across the country. The excitement around the race exemplifies Democrats’ motivation right now. A win would boost morale and put serious fear into Republicans representing even safe districts.
That said, winning a majority in a field of 18 is tough. The race is more likely to go to a runoff. It will be interesting to see how Democrats do head-to-head in a district that Republicans have won by double digits in every election since 2000. Dems may have overplayed the expectations game. Republicans will try to spin a runoff as a win.
Tonight’s race is far different than last week’s Kansas special election. In that race, the Democrat came up short by seven points in a district Trump won by 27 points. National Democrats have been criticized for not putting resources into the race. However, it didn’t look competitive until the end. Republicans made a relatively small investment in the final week. If Democrats had decided to spend big, the GOP would have dumped boatloads to save it. The DCCC probably should have done a little more just to show support for a hardworking candidate but a seven-point margin is substantial and there’s not much they could have done to change the outcome.
The race in Georgia, in contrast, has both sides fully engaged. The district is far better than the one in Kansas for Democrats and is exactly the type of district they’ll need to win to flip the House in 2018. Still, the next midterm is a long way away and tonight’s outcome may turn out to be a moment in time, not a sign of anything more.