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Tuesday brings us the high-profile special congressional election in Georgia to fill the seat vacated by Republican HHS Secretary Tom Price. If no one gets more than 50% of the vote in the 18-candidate field, the race heads to a June 20 runoff. Here are the answers to eight big questions about the race:
Can Democrat Jon Ossoff get 50%-plus and avoid a runoff?
Probably not, but he has a chance. The polls show Ossoff in the low-to mid-40s, but that percentage could grow if Democratic turnout is sky-high compared with GOP turnout.
Is Ossoff doomed if he can’t crack 50% tomorrow?
Not at all. While Republicans’ odds of holding on to this seat increase in a two-person race, the polling — which hasn’t been of the greatest quality, mind you — shows Ossoff running competitively against the top-tier Republicans in a runoff. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report is designating the overall contest as a Toss Up.
How much is the race about Trump?
Ossoff has definitely tried to make it about the president. “When President Trump embarrasses our country or acts recklessly, I’ll hold him accountable,” he has said in one of his ads. “Donald Trump doesn’t represent our values,” Rep. John Lewis says to the camera in another Ossoff ad.
Trump inserted himself in this race on Monday, tweeting: “The super Liberal Democrat in the Georgia Congressioal [sic] race tomorrow wants to protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes!”
Republicans, meanwhile, first targeted Ossoff by resurfacing video of him drinking and acting out as Han Solo during his college days. Then they tied him Nancy Pelosi. And then they played the Osama bin Laden card in this video.
Is this district Trump country?
No. And this is an important point if Ossoff wins (either on April 18 or June 20). Tom Price got 62% of the vote in this highly educated and affluent Atlanta-area district in 2016, and Mitt Romney took 61% in 2012. But Trump barely beat Hillary Clinton here in 2016, 48%-47%, and that was on his best day of the general election.
Who are the top Republicans?
They include former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (who has been the top Republican in most polls), former state Sen. Dan Moody (who has been endorsed by U.S. Sen. David Perdue), and businessman Bob Gray (whom the Club for Growth is backing).
How much national money is going into this one contest?
About $14 million has been spent on advertising in this district by both sides. Ossoff himself raised at least $8.3 million for his run – an astounding sum for a House candidate – but he has also had to contend with the widely-publicized fact that just 5% of those donations came from his home state.
What time do polling places close?
Polls in Georgia close at 7:00 pm ET. There has been a sizable early vote in this race, and so early vote totals will probably show Ossoff with a significant early lead. The question is whether that holds up when Election Day totals come in.
How predictive are special elections for upcoming midterm elections?
They aren’t. While an Ossoff win would send shockwaves throughout Congress and open GOP eyes about the current political mood, special elections don’t predict how a later midterm cycle will turn out. Indeed, back in 2010, Democrats won a highly contested special election to fill the seat of the late Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA). But that Democratic victory didn't stop the GOP from its huge midterm victories that year.