Five takeaways from the Georgia special election
Democrats failed to turn Georgia’s special election Tuesday into a resounding victory against President Trump, with Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff falling just short of the 50 percent plus one he needed to avert a runoff. Republican Karen Handel finished second in the race to fill the 6th Congressional District seat left open by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, earning the spot opposite Ossoff in a contest she’s favored to win.
Republicans, including Trump, crowed that they had beaten back Ossoff in a race that attracted liberal star power and millions of dollars in outside money.
But GOP-aligned groups also spent millions in the state, and their short-term victory papers over a larger problem. With liberals energized in their opposition to Trump and hoping to be competitive in more red districts in 2018, Tuesday’s vote in Georgia looks set to reverberate into the midterms.
Here are five takeaways from Tuesday night’s election:
More seats could be in play for Democrats
Ossoff’s strong showing and a closer-than-expected vote in a special election in Kansas last week mean that the midterm trends are looking up for Democrats.
Republicans spent millions defending the Kansas seat that Trump won by 27 points, eventually retaining it by only 7 points.
And Ossoff, a 30-year-old Democrat and political neophyte, nearly won a seat that has in the past been held by GOP heavyweights like former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Those results have liberals convinced that they can turn the left’s anti-Trump energy into electoral gains.
Liberals have harried GOP lawmakers at town hall events and coordinated massive protests against Trump’s policies, a grassroots enthusiasm that translates into money and volunteers for Democratic candidates.
Still, Democrats haven’t actually won any new seats. And Democrats are defending 25 of their own in the Senate. To take back the House, Democrats will need to flip at least 24 seats in 2018, which will mean taking out incumbents in Trump districts. FiveThirtyEight analyst Nate Silver, looking at Tuesday’s results, considers 48 GOP-held seats to have more favorable electorates for Democrats than Georgia’s 6th District — meaning the House could be in play.
It’s a tall order, but the Democrats’ energy and early fundraising returns in Georgia show that the party can be competitive in districts that were thought to be safe for Republicans.