Democrats have been desperate to win a seat in the recent spate of special elections to replace members of Congress who went to work for the Trump administration. Back in 2010 you’ll remember the thundering win of Scott Brown over flawed candidate Marth Coakley. The seat was vacated by the death of Ted Kennedy, but the race became a referendum on the fledgling presidency of Barack Obama, and a turning point for a movement that became known as the Tea Party.
Brown, the Republican in the race, won in the heavily Democratic state of Massachusetts. His win, along with that of Republican Mark Kirk in Illinois later that year, took the momentum from Democrats, who had started the 111th Congress with a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
Democrats have been looking for their own way to stop Donald Trump’s momentum. A win in a Republican district akin to Brown’s win in Massachusetts would be a signal that Americans are angry with the administration. No such signal has come. Karen Handel has beaten Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s Sixth District, despite a massive amount of money spent by Democrats to “flip the sixth.”
Democrats were also disappointed by a another loss last night, this one in South Carolina. The former congressional seat of Mick Mulvaney, currently the budget director for the Trump administration, was also up for grabs last night. The race was won by Republican Ralph Norman, who defeated a former Goldman Sachs executive.
The Wall Street Journal reports that despite the wins, Republicans are seeing the races as a wake up call to rally the base.
The twin victories mean that Republicans are 4-for-4 in the House special elections that are being widely viewed for signals to each party’s prospects next year in the battle for control of the House, which is now held by the Republicans. Georgia had been considered Democrats’ best shot at a win.
In her victory speech, Ms. Handel offered a “special thanks to the president of the United States,” who had come to the district for a fundraiser and sent supportive Twittermessages in the closing days of the campaign. After her victory, Mr. Trump congratulated her in another tweet….
Mr. Ossoff’s defeat will likely prompt soul-searching among Democrats about what it will take to flip Republican-held seats in the 2018 midterm fight for control of the House, given that such a vast effort in Georgia fell short. More than $31 million was poured into the Ossoff campaign by donors and outside groups, compared with more than $23 million spent by Ms. Handel’s campaign and its allies.
Still, the fact that Republicans had to work so hard to hold on to a historically conservative district sent a warning to GOP incumbents and candidates that they likely will have a tougher fight than usual next year, especially in suburbs like Georgia’s Sixth District, where many residents are affluent and hold college degrees.
Chip Lake, a Republican consultant in Georgia unaffiliated with the Handel campaign, said the Republican win means the party “dodged a bullet.”
Republicans should see the expensive race as “a wake-up call to our base and our party,” because the election in a traditionally Republican district shouldn’t have been close, Mr. Lake said. “I’m glad we won, but we shouldn’t have had to spend $20 million to $25 million to do it.”
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