Speed Reads

2017 Elections

Trump, Paul Ryan both take credit for forcing Jon Ossoff into a Georgia congressional runoff

President Trump has devoted a great deal of his Twitter activity in the past few days to the special election in Georgia's 6th congressional district, urging voters in the reliably conservative suburban area of Atlanta to vote for a Republican — any Republican — on Tuesday so Democrat Jon Ossoff would be forced into a runoff. When Ossoff came up just short of the 50 percent he needed to win outright — he got about 48 percent — Trump once again turned to Twitter for a modest victory lap.

At the same time, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders downplayed Trump's involvement in the election on Tuesday. Asked on Air Force One if the election was a referendum on Trump's first 100 days, she said, "I wouldn't use the word referendum." In fact, when House Speaker Paul Ryan's Congressional Leadership Fund polled voters in the district in March, they found that Ryan was a better advocate in Georgia's 6th — or, mostly, tying Ossoff to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — than Trump, who barely won the district in November. The Republican that Ossoff will face on June 20, in fact, kept Trump at arm's length.

Ryan's super PAC, the CLF, was the first GOP outfit to jump in the race, March 25, after polling found Ossoff doing well and gaining steam. On Tuesday, CLF executive director Cory Bliss took credit for forcing the runoff. "If we had waited another couple of weeks, it would have been too late," he told The Washington Examiner. The CLF quickly set up a field office with 100 paid staff to knock on doors of targeted voters, seven days a week, and poured more than $2 million into negative advertising against Ossoff. The National Republican Congressional Committee also sent staff into the district, and GOP groups spent another $3 million against Ossoff.

"This is a solid Republican seat in which Democratic performance has lingered in mid-30s over the past three election cycles," Ed Espinoza, a Democratic strategist, told The Washington Examiner. The CLF will continue to pour resources into defeating Ossoff in June, and Trump will probably continue tweeting about the race.