The special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District has moved into overtime. A great deal has been written in the past few days about that election, but so much of what was written is garbage. Political reporters outside Georgia decided to just accept the spin of the major parties instead of actually studying the district. Here are a few things to know.
First, special elections are always anomalous. Normal elections for Congress are held in November in even numbered years. That district just had an election. Now people are being asked to show up in April of a non-election year for an election. Behaviors change. Plus, there was a severe thunderstorm over that district on election day and a collapsed interstate. One can only read so much from it.
Second, do not believe the Democratic spin. They would have you believe that the election should have never been that close. Yes, it should have. There was essentially only one Democrat, though technically five were on the ballot. Jon Ossoff captured all the money and attention early to run against 11 Republicans, many of whom were well known.
The Republicans spent three-quarters of the race fighting each other before even realizing Ossoff was going to be a factor. Of course it was going to be close in a situation like that.
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Third, do not believe the Republican spin. The race was going to be close because there were 18 candidates with 11 of them mostly well known Republicans. But Jon Ossoff outperformed Hillary Clinton in an off year special election. That should bother the GOP. The Democrats were deeply motivated and mobilized. That spells trouble for 2018.
Fourth, do not believe the White House. There actually was a bit of a rebuke of the president. Consider that there were three well known candidates running as the friends of Trump.
One, Bob Gray, had actually vocally opposed the president in 2016, going so far as to call him the “GOP Obama.” While he hired some of President Trump’s campaign staff, most everyone knew he really was not as pro-Trump as he claimed. He came in third in the race.
Then there was Bruce Levell, who served as President Trump’s coalitions director in Georgia. He got 0.2 percent of the vote. That is what Amy Kremer got too. She served with a Trump related super PAC in 2016. The closer one had to legitimate ties to President Trump, the worse the candidate did.
This is not meant to insult Trump voters or the president. It is just a statement of fact. It is something the Republicans need to be mindful of. In suburban districts of highly educated, high income voters, the president does not play as well as he does elsewhere.
The GOP is going to need to find ways to campaign in those traditional Republican areas on a message of assistance for an agenda and accountability for a president. That was, in fact, the message Karen Handel ran on.
Handel claimed she would not run from the president, but she relied on her record of holding her own side accountable. She said she would support a conservative agenda, but would speak up when the agenda was not conservative.
Voters appreciated that. They also relied on her high name identification, which was her chief asset.
Lastly, it is worth repeating that none of us should read too much into this. Special elections are special creatures. The normal rules do not apply. But, with attention so high now, the runoff should operate more traditionally, which gives Handel an advantage.
Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.