It's still 3 weeks until the special election in Georgia to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Tom Price, who was sworn in as President Trump's Secretary of Health and Human Services, but the Democrat, John Ossoff is within spitting distance of Republican candidate Karen Handel.
This isn't surprising since the 6th district has been trending more Democratic in recent elections. President Trump won the district by about 2% last November and national Democrats are pouring millions of dollars into the race, smelling a victory.
But those national Democrats who believe that the Georgia race can be used as a template for victories across the nation in 2018 House races may be fooling themselves.
Some Democrats believe the DCCC’s strategy has been smart, given that the party will likely need huge amounts of money to compete in the large number of expected swing districts in 2018.“If that’s the case and the DCCC is spending millions of dollars in seats that aren’t really winnable based on the information that they have, then that means come next November, they’re not going to have the money to support candidacies against legitimately vulnerable Republicans,” said Bill Burton, who worked at the DCCC in 2006.But others argue that the party can’t ignore traditionally red districts in places like Montana and Kansas and needs to spend time and resources to develop a large field operation in Republican areas with the hopes of developing them for the future.“You can’t ignore these parts of the country in between elections and only invest in a couple of races,” said Nomiki Konst, a former Bernie Sanders delegate serving on the DNC unity commission. “When you talk about the issues that affect working people and you do that in between races, they’re going to be attracted to your message.”The closer-than-expected special election losses have pressure on Ossoff to finally deliver a win for the party this year.Democrats are outspending Republicans in the runoff, with the DCCC spending another $3.6 million to prop up Ossoff, according to an Atlanta Journal Constitution analysis from late May. Recent polls show Ossoff slightly edging out Handel, but still within the margin of error.Despite the polls, Republicans say they’re going into Georgia’s runoff with cautious optimism. They acknowledge the high energy for their opponent, but note that Handel, a former Georgia secretary of State, quickly consolidated GOP support after the all-party primary and has since raised the resources to compete on the same level as Ossoff.
As far as I can tell, Democrats haven't learned a darned thing from 2016. First, and most importantly, Georgia 6 is not a typical swing district. While Trump's margin of victory was narrow, Rep. Price slaughtered his Democratic oppoinent 61-38. Dems are going to be running against GOP incumbents, many of whom received 55% or more of the vote in 2016. It's a tall order to recruit a candidate with name recognition in these districts and could run a decent race against entrenched GOP incumbents.
But what about Trump hate? No doubt the hysteria ginned up against Trump will energize activists. But what about ordinary voters? Democrats are notorious for not showing up in off year elections and I have yet to see any sign that their core of minority voters, single women, and college educated adults are sufficiently motivated to go to the polls. There just doesn't appear to be a so called "wave" building that would sweep away dozens of GOP congressmen.
That's not to say that the situation won't change in the 17 months between now and the mid terms. But a narrow victory for Ossoff will only prove to be an illusion of Democratic strength. The Dems are not going to pour ten million dollars into every swing state race. Along with the fact that GOP districts have been expertly gerrymandered to make a large number of them safe, the GOP majority should be safe - for the time being.