Jon Ossoff Gives Trump’s GOP A Near Political Cardiac Arrest—Democrats, Keep on Fighting! April 19, 2017
All right, Democrats. Don’t jump off the political ledge, sit Shivah, (the Jewish 7-day mourning period), or engage in Irish Catholic wake- like humor because candidate Jon Ossoff failed to win the 4/18/2017 Ga. Congressional special election primary and must face a 6/20/2017 run off against GOPer Karen Handel. Yes, winning this race outright with 50.1% of the vote, would have practically “flat-lined” Trump and his GOP going into the 11/2018 midterms. However, Jon Ossoff’s taking 48.1% of the vote in an 18-person primary field, coming up just 2% short, still gives the GOP a stronger second episode of political cardiac arrest (See Bradner, CNN, 8/19/17). “Team Red’s” first “Code Blue,” remember, came on 4/11/2017 in another special election. At that time, a fairly unknown civil rights attorney Democrat James Thompson only lost by 7 points in the Wichita Kansas 4th Congressional District, headquarters of Koch Industries, to well- known GOPer Ron Estes. In 2016, Donald took this district by 27 points and incumbent GOP Cong. Mike Pompeo, now Trump’s CIA Director, cruised to a 32% win (CQ Early 115th Cong. Guide, Huffington Post, Bobic, I., 4/12/17, NY Times, Cohn, N., 4/12/17).
Veteran GOP consultant Stu Stevens aptly tweeted about the Ossoff contest: “Getting over 50% with almost 20 candidates is like throwing a football through 10 swinging tires at 50 yards.” What Ossoff did by getting 48.1% of the vote was quite extraordinary. That 48.1% is 5-6 points higher than the margin predicted in most pre-election polls (Washington Post, Rubin, J. 4/19/17). Too many people, as the Post’s Jennifer Rubin noted, tend to forget that the Ga. 6th, is a VERY GOP district (Wash. Post). The FiveThirtyEight political column noted, “the Georgia 6th is about 9.5 percentage points more Republican than the nation as a whole. (That means if there was a tie in the national popular vote, a Republican would be expected to win the Ga. 6th by 9.5 points.).” The Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) gives the 6th a bright “Red” R+14 score. In 2012, Romney carried this CD by 24 points (Barone 14 Almanac). In 2016, incumbent GOP Cong. Tom Price, now Trump’s HHS (Health & Human Services) Secretary, won that seat by 24 points (115th Early Guide). The main reason Democrats competed in this special election to replace Price is because of Trump’s unpopularity in this affluent and educated Ga. district. Hillary lost to Donald here by only 1.5 points in 2016 (See Rubin, Wash. Post, 4/19/17). If a GOPer won 48% of the vote in a strong “Blue” NY City congressional district where Democrats spent a lot of money and Obama campaigned, “Team Blue” would not be breathing easy. They’d be swallowing antacids.” The same should be true for GOPers looking at Ossoff’s Ga. 6th primary results (See Rubin, Washington Post, 4/19/17).
National GOPers suddenly realized that nationwide grassroots Democratic financing of Ossoff to the tune of $8.3 million, strong Democratic enthusiasm for him, and his early voting edge made Ossoff getting an outright win possible. At the very end of this race, Trump, therefore, weighed in with six tweets. These tweets misleadingly criticized Ossoff. One of those Trump tweets told GOP voters, lacking enthusiasm in the primary and tearing each other apart, “to VOTE in Georgia 6. Force runoff and easy win (See LA Times, Decker & Jarvie, 4/19/17)!” GOP House Speaker Ryan’s Congressional Leadership Fund provided $2.1 million in general vote GOP ads and the GOP’s National Congressional Campaign Committee chipped in a similar $1.8 million. Handel herself was the beneficiary of $700, 000 from “Ending Spending” a super PAC (political action committee) founded by the Trump-supporting Ricketts family (heavy.comnews, 4/18/17).
Progressive blogger/writer Josh Marshall at “TPM” argues that the “worst thing that Democrats can do now is “get demoralized (“TPM,” 4/18/17).” Exactly. Marshall correctly noted that this district had once been represented by GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich. A Democrat, John Flynt, Jr., last represented this area in 1979 (U.S. Congress, Biographical Directory). Newcomer Democrat Ossoff, with no prior experience in elected office, almost won this district outright. Prior to 2016, Price never won less than 64.51% of the vote. In 11/2016, he took 61.7%, not that different from his previous wins (Marshall, “TPM”). Yes, I know that CNN’s Chris Cillizza and “Politico’s” Gabriel Debenedetti are promoting gloom and doom about the Democrats’ chances of winning any previous GOP districts (CNN, 4/19/17, “Politico,” 4/19/17). However, other analysts see matters differently. Besides the Washington Post’s Rubin, the NY Times’ Jonathan Martin and Richard Fausset, believe that Ossoff’s strong showing will ensure that national Democrats continue to compete here and will increase the pressure that the party contests a special election for a House-at-Large seat in Montana in 5/2017. With the Democrats’ strong showing in Kansas and Ga., Martin and Fausset see an “immediate fund raising boon” for Democratic groups as well as for recruiting top “Blue” candidates. After these better than expected Democratic runs, many GOPers are assessing whether to even run in Trump’s first midterm 2018 election. And GOPers and their outside groups have had to spend over $7 million against Democrats in a series of deeply conservative districts (NY Times, 4/19/17). Ossoff collected over ¾ of the vote total that the Democratic nominee for Congress took last year, while the 5 top GOP candidates combined earned half of the votes that Price won in his last race. As long as such an enthusiasm gap remains, it will be a major worry for GOPers in normally safe districts like the Ga. 6th (Burn, A., NY Times, 4/19/17).
Washington Post writer, Paul Kane, notes that these special election congressional races in the lobster “Red” Ks. and Ga. areas were way down on the list of top Democratic priorities in midterm Campaign 2018. If these districts were vulnerable, many other GOP seats, especially in other suburban areas with less of a GOP lean are even more endangered. In order to recapture the House, Democrats need to take back a net 24 seats. GOPers such as Long Island’s Lee Zeldin, Cong. Ryan Costello from Philadelphia’s western suburbs, Cong. Erik Paulsen from the Twin Cities Minn. Suburbs, and New Jersey’s Cong. Leonard Lance are very vulnerable (Wash. Post, 4/19/17). Democrats also believe that if the GOP is struggling in a Koch Kansas and a Gingrich Ga. District, many seats having less than a 9.5 GOP advantage will be in play. They include GOP congressional districts that Hillary won (the Va. 10th CD- Cong. Barbara Comstock, the Fla. 26th— Cong. Carlos Curbelo, the Calif. 39th and 49th – Cong. Ed Royce and Darrell Issa). Less heavily GOP districts will also be targeted (Ia.1-Cong. Rod Blum, Minn. 2—Cong. Jason Lewis, and NY19, Cong. John Faso) (See Rubin, Wash. Post, 4/19/17). The progressive blogs Daily Kos and actblue.com suggest a whole list of endangered House GOP seats based on how they voted for Trump. They list 36 seats where Trump won by less than 5 points and 66 seats where he won by 10 points or less (Kos, 4/11/17, Kos/user /kos). You get the idea.
Democrats must keep fighting in every special election and other state and house contests. Even if they lose many of the initial rounds, they must not give up. The GOP, clobbered in the 1964 Goldwater debacle, never gave up. They kept at it election after election. They gave donation after donation, wrote opinion pieces and books, and funded think tanks. They constantly pushed their viewpoints until Reagan and, ultimately, Trump could win along with federal and state “Red” majorities. We too must be in it for the long haul. In my next blog post, I will discuss Ossoff’s chances in the 6/20/2017 runoff.