The Closer to Trump One Was in #GA06, the Worse the Candidate Did

Here is a very true fact that should not be controversial. The more closely aligned a candidate was with Donald Trump, the worse the candidate did in the special election in Georgia. It is not meant to be insulting. It is just true. It is not bashing the President or attacking his supporters to point it out. The sixth congressional district is a district of high income, highly educated suburban Republicans and those voters tend to be the least Trump supporting of all Republicans. That is a reality borne out in the race and it is one the GOP is going to need to be mindful of as they map out 2018.

But one candidate has so bought into this campaign mythology that he thinks I am talking about him.

Bob Gray, who came in third place, has taken me to task for saying what is objectively true. He notes that he came ahead of a Rubio backed candidate. That is true too. Bob’s problem is that he has convinced himself he was a true-blue Trump supporter when he was not.

In 2016, Bob Gray supported Marco Rubio. He declared himself a Cruz man, but believed Cruz could not win. So he backed Rubio and was pretty antagonistic to Donald Trump, going so far as to call him the “GOP Obama.”

Only once Trump had secured the nomination did Gray convert.

This year, trying to capitalize on Trump’s supporters, Gray posed as a true-blue Trump supporter would would be a “willing partner” for Trump. He went so far as to hire Trump staffers.

But no one really bought it except Bob. You can read this AJC article for more on Bob’s sensational Trump claims, including the bit where his campaign sent out a press release claiming Karen Handel was dropping out to endorse him.

As I said, the closer a candidate was to Trump, the worse the candidate did.

Bob Gray, who posed as a Trump fan, got 10.8% of the vote.

Bruce Levell, who was a coalitions director for Trump and was with Trump from the beginning, got .2% of the vote.

Amy Kremer, who helped run one of the Trump super PAC’s also got .2% of the vote.

These three candidates all championed their ties to Trump and their willingness to help Trump. They’re all fine people. I know Amy well and she’s a great, committed conservative. But the ones with the closest ties did worse.

Gray may have convinced himself he was a Trump ally, but few others believed it. For Pete’s sake, the Club for Growth, which has routinely been attacked by the President, supported Gray and a pro-Trump PAC attacked Gray and the Club for Growth.

I had no idea that stating a fact was “bashing” Trump voters.

And yes, the man who supported Marco Rubio outperformed a Rubio supported candidate. Well done.

That does not change the facts. None of this was meant to be insulting, just a statement of fact the GOP needs to pay attention to. But Bob Gray is apparently rather high strung.

If Bob Gray Gets the Nod, I Hope He Becomes More Consistent

I have not taken a position on Georgia’s sixth congressional district. Instead, with 13 candidates running, I invited them all on my radio program in Atlanta to answer three basic questions: who are you; what is the issue you care about most; and, why should voters choose you over the others?

The reality is that in polling, based on name identification, there are three Republicans who have a real shot. Karen Handel, the former Secretary of State, is the front runner. Bob Gray, a Johns Creek city councilman, would be second. And rapidly moving up is Judson Hill, a former state senator. They are all three good candidates. But I am a bit disappointed that Bob Gray is revealing himself to be more wishy-washy than he appears and hope he will find some consistency.

First, Gray was opposed to Donald Trump in 2016. He said on Facebook that he was a Cruz guy, but he thought Rubio had a better shot at winning. So he voted Rubio. He remained critical of Trump throughout the campaign season, but is now running as someone to help President Trump. That is both understandable and forgiveable, though it has raised the hackles of long time staunch Trump supporters.

Then there is this from over the weekend in the New York Times.

Bob Gray, who calls himself an outsider and is a businessman supported by the conservative Club for Growth, played to type at the forum as he twice criticized Speaker Paul D. Ryan for having “failed” on the health care legislation. But in an interview, Mr. Gray allowed that he would have backed the House-drafted bill (which the Club for Growth opposed), shied away from the Tea Party label and sounded more like a furrowed-brow centrist than a fire-breathing conservative.

“This is the problem with D.C.,” he said. “Everybody has retreated to their political corners with a jersey on. We need people like President Trump who want to go to D.C. and change the way they do business. The American people are tired of the bickering.”

How do you go from attacking Paul Ryan in public for his health care plan to then saying he would have supported it? Why shy away from the tea party label?

The fact is it was terrible legislation and every Republican should have opposed it. But it reeks of opportunism to publicly attack Paul Ryan when then conceding you’d have supported the plan. Bob has been a city councilman and now all eyes are on him. He is going to need a greater level of consistency if he is the Republican pushed into a runoff against the Democrats.

That lack of consistency and low name identification over all would let Jon Ossoff and his millions portray Gray as a real opportunist. And Gray is not helping himself on that front.

GOP Can’t Get It Together In Georgia, It’s a Mess

Georgia’s CD-6 special election is a mess for the GOP. I live in a different district, but spent the last few days up near Atlanta and saw some of the political ads running on television. From what I saw, Jon Ossoff looks like a cost-cutting Republican on TV. His ads never mention that he’s a Democrat.

The Congressional Leadership Fund’s attack ads against him are so extreme and shrill (rioters, really?) as to do more damage to Republicans than Ossoff. Then there’s the division within the GOP. Karen Handel is currently the leader, with maxed out name recognition, but she appears to be coasting on that–not a good idea.

Her competition is not coasting. “Outsider” businessman Dan Moody won Sen. David Perdue’s endorsement this week, and has hyped it in ads.

Perdue, who won his U.S. Senate seat in 2014 running as an outsider, stares directly into the camera to say he was elected to “fix a broken system with a new president who isn’t afraid to shake things up.”

“We finally have a real chance. Trust me, we don’t need another career politician up here,” said Perdue. “Dan Moody cares more about getting results than getting credit. That’s so uncommon and exactly what we need. Dan’s one of us.”

It’s telling that Perdue, who defeated Handel in the senate primary in 2014, doesn’t see her as “one of us.” Republicans Bob Gray and state Sen. Judson Hill continue to promote themselves in their bids. This creates somewhat of a schism in the race, making it more dangerous for the GOP in a runoff.

Cook Political Report has actually downgraded the GA-6 special election from “Likely-R” to “Lean-R.” The infighting among GOP candidates may depress turnout for the all-important runoff, while Democrats continue to pour outside money into Ossoff’s coffers.

The House GOP leadership’s Congressional Leadership Fund has upped its ad buy to keep Ossoff’s numbers down while Republicans fight amongst themselves. The CLF is desperately trying to motivate traditional Republicans by calling him a liberal resume inflator who will “rubber stamp Nancy Pelosi’s agenda.” But there’s little question at this point that Ossoff will secure the top runoff spot, and the GOP field is badly fractured and plagued by infighting.

There are probably only three Republicans who have a legitimate shot at joining Ossoff in the runoff: former Secretary of State Karen Handel, tech investor Bob Gray and state Sen. Judson Hill. Handel began with the lead, but the Club for Growth recently endorsed Gray and is up on air attacking Handel as a “career politician.” The Club’s involvement irks GOP strategists at a time the party badly needs to keep its attacks pointed at Ossoff.

The runoff will be held June 20 (in all likelihood unless something explosive occurs to put one candidate over 50 percent). Summer runoffs are typically low-energy, low-turnout affairs. Just a few more voters per precinct can make all the difference. If Democrats are motivated and Republicans are apathetic, Tom Price’s seat could go blue.

That would be a tragedy, and a poor way for Republicans to start the election cycle in President Trump’s term. A warning for the GOP here: This is not time to go on vacation. Get it together, or Ossoff is going to win.

Democrats Eyeing GA-6 In First Trump-Era Race: Ossoff Leads Handel, GOP Field In Poll

Democrat Jon Ossoff leads the Georgia 6th CD field to fill HHS Secretary Tom Price’s congressional seat with 40 percent, according to a Fox5/Opinion Savvy poll conducted on March 24. Former Georgia Secretary of State, gubernatorial and senate candidate Karen Handel leads the larger Republican field at 20 percent, with Johns Creek City Councilman Bob Gray and State Senator Judson Hill tied at 10 percent.

Handel leads in name recognition in the “jungle” election where candidates of both parties will compete in a large (19 candidate) ballot. If no candidate achieves an outright majority, the top two will head to a runoff. At this point, it’s very likely the runoff will be between Handel and Ossoff.

Outside Democrat money is pouring in to help the 30-year-old Ossoff win a seat from a heavily GOP district north of Atlanta. Tom Price was one of the more conservative members of Georgia’s congressional delegation, and Democrats would love to pull off a coup to use for their 2018 election efforts.

Polling in a Handel/Ossoff runoff is tight: Handel 41, Ossoff 42, 17 percent undecided.

The big question is if Handel can finish. In her two previous attempts, despite widespread name recognition and popularity–especially with pro-life groups due to her stand against Planned Parenthood–Handel could not hold on in primaries against Nathan Deal in the governor’s race and David Perdue in the senate.

In a close race with a well-funded, youthful Democrat, can she finish well? Some Republicans have backed Gray as a viable alternative. With the election on April 19, the next few weeks are critical for Handel, and for Gray.

I’ve always liked Karen Handel, and have consistently backed her. In this race, I’ve stepped back a bit and remained neutral, especially since I don’t live in the 6th CD. I do believe either Handel or Gray would be good conservative members of Congress and worthy to step into Price’s seat.

With a race so important on the national scene–the first Congressional race of the Trump era–it’s vital that Republicans hold this seat. If Handel wins a spot in the runoff, she must deliver the goods. If voters aren’t so sure she can, they can’t hold out over sentiment or personal loyalty on this one.

Handel has to convince those voters she can finish strong, or they’ll go with the candidate who can.