Even as some analysts caution against reading too much into the Democrats' near victory, but ultimate defeat, in the Georgia special election on Tuesday, pretty much everyone agrees that something dramatic needs to change between now and November 2018 if Democrats are to stand a chance of flipping the House. "[Democrats] are outside the mainstream of the American public in districts they need to win, like Georgia 6, where not only did we win but we actually expanded the margin tonight over the presidential election in 2016," National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers, who helped with the last four House special elections, told Politico.
Stivers contends that Democratic candidates are too far to the left. Stivers added that "the Democratic strategy of trying to make every House race a referendum on Trump also isn't working," Politico notes. "Democrats tried unsuccessfully to tie vulnerable House Republican candidates to Trump in 2016; most of them, however outran Trump — even in districts Hillary Clinton carried."
Many frustrated Democrats sort of agree with the Republican leader. "Ossof race better be a wakeup call for Democrats — business as usual isn't working. Time to stop rehashing 2016 and talk about the future," tweeted Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.).
Democrats don't necessarily agree with Stivers' analysis of which direction to go, though. "To Bernie-aligned progressives I've spoken with, the Ossoff loss was evidence that candidates need to be more liberal, more outspoken on economic populism," wrote Politico's Gabriel Debenedetti. "Others wondered why the party didn't spend much money at all in [the South Carolina special election between Republican Ralph Norman and Democrat Archie Parnell]. But one Dem congressman texted me a question that summed up all the exasperation early in the night: 'Lots of 'moral victories.' But when do we get actual victories???'"
Read The Week's assessments of the race, with Simon Maloy writing that "Democrats don't get points from Republicans for being polite and moderate" and David Faris writing that the Democrats completely wasted their time in the state. Jeva Lange
In his concession speech, Jon Ossoff told disappointed supporters his loss was "not the outcome any of us would hope for," but the "fight goes on."
Ossoff, a Democrat, was defeated in Georgia's 6th Congressional district special election on Tuesday by Republican Karen Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state. After congratulating Handel, he thanked his volunteers, "the more than 12,000 of you, who as darkness has crept across the planet, have provided a beacon of hope for people here in Georgia, for people across the country, and for people around the world." Politics are being dominated by "fear and hatred and scapegoating," he said, but the community — specifically women — "stood up" and "carried" Ossoff and his campaign "on your shoulders."
The district has been a GOP stronghold for almost 40 years, but Ossoff said his campaign "showed the world that in places where no one thought it was even possible to fight, we could fight." He did not say if he will stay in politics, and has previously said he would have to discuss running again with his fiancée. Catherine Garcia
Karen Handel, the projected winner of Georgia's 6th congressional district special election, told supporters Tuesday night she knew it was going to be a "very, very tight race" that was "going to require all hands on deck, and that's exactly what we had."
Handel, a Republican and former Georgia secretary of state, will fill the seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in the GOP stronghold. Handel started her victory speech by thanking volunteers and politicians like Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who was shot last week while practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game. "We need to lift up the nation so we can find a more civil way to deal with our disagreements, because in these United States of America, no one should ever feel their life threatened over their political beliefs and positions," she said.
Handel said her opponent, Democrat Jon Ossoff, was "gracious" when he called to concede, and reminded the crowd that "we may have some different beliefs, but we are part of one community, the community of the 6th district." The real work is about to begin, she said, "the hard work of governing and doing it in a responsible, civil way. My pledge is to be part of the solution to focus on governing, to put my experience to work to help solve the very serious issues we're facing in this country." Catherine Garcia
Several media outlets are projecting that Republican Karen Handel will win Georgia's 6th congressional district special election.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Handel has 127,021 votes compared to Democrat Jon Ossoff with 114,390 votes. The district is a traditional Republican stronghold, and the special election was held to fill the seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. It was the most expensive House race in history, and while it is a reprieve for President Trump, Price won the district by double digits when he was last elected. Catherine Garcia
Voters in Georgia's 6th congressional district head to the polls Tuesday to vote in a special election between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel. On Monday, President Trump weighed in with an endorsement of Handel:
The Dems want to stop tax cuts, good healthcare and Border Security.Their ObamaCare is dead with 100% increases in P's. Vote now for Karen H
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2017
Ossoff will enter election day with surprisingly strong numbers for the heavily Republican suburbs of Atlanta: "If Democrats are to keep pace with their special election results so far, then Ossoff probably should be winning the race, not just coming close — and Georgia 6 should be the election where Democrats go from 'moral victories' to actual wins," FiveThirtyEight writes in its analysis. That being said, "Ossoff [is] ahead by a not-very-safe margin of about 2 percentage points." In other words: It's still anybody's race.
But as small as the victory might ultimately be, the implications will likely be read as massive by the defeated party. "This is a laboratory. In order to win the House back we have to win in districts that are gerrymandered for Republicans, so [special elections like this one are] laboratories for us to figure out what's the best way to mobilize this vote," Democratic National Committee Associate Chair Jaime Harrison told Politico.
What's more, "a loss in Georgia's special election here could leave the [Democratic Party] demoralized, with little to show for all the furious organizing, fundraising, and spending in a handful of congressional special elections in the early months of the Trump administration," Politico writes.
"This is a harbinger of national politics. The world is looking, the nation is looking — and all the money has flowed in here," former Republican Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Jeva Lange