In this photo taken March 11, 2017, Georgia Democratic congressional candidate Jon Ossoff speaks to volunteers in his Cobb County campaign office. Ossoff is trying for an upset in a Republican-leaning district outside Atlanta. The primary is April 18 with a likely runoff on June 20. Republicans have begun to attack Ossoff, a move the candidates says "shows we can win." (AP Photo/Bill Barrow)

The Ossoff Strategy Is Not Sustainable

Democrats want to send a public rebuke to Donald Trump and they are trying to do it in Georgia. The sixth congressional district in Georgia went Republican with Newt Gingrich in the 70’s and was most recently held by Tom Price, President Trump’s Health & Human Services Secretary.

Though there are three Democrats in the race, nationally Democrats have rallied to a thirty year old who does not even live in the district. Jon Ossoff lives in a very liberal part of Atlanta, by Emory University. No matter, nationally the left is pouring millions into his race and Republicans are starting to panic.

Ossoff has to get to 50% to avoid a runoff. Right now, he hovers at 40%. That is significant because it is lower than Hillary Clinton’s share of the vote in the sixth. In 2012, Mitt Romney won the race by 20%, but Trump won it by only about 1.5%. That is why the Democrats chose this district. The district has not, contrary to some press reports, seen a dramatic demographic shift in 4 years. Rather, the district saw a lot of Republican women and wealthy Republican men reject Donald Trump.

Republicans are fielding 13 candidates, many of them running as Donald Trump’s best friend, in a district where Trump is now popular, but is still less popular than in most other Republican areas in the country. This, however, is Ossoff’s problem.

If Ossoff does not get to 50%, he most likely will be in a race against Karen Handel, the former Georgia Secretary of State. Based on name identification alone, Handel is the front runner. While some Republicans fear she will not be able to unite all the Republicans behind her in a runoff, the data suggests otherwise. In fact, the data suggests Ossoff cannot beat her in a runoff.

Though Ossoff has millions in the bank and can wage an aggressive ad blitz against Handel, Handel is a known commodity who has repeatedly won the sixth in other elections. Ossoff also will have a “D” next to his name. In a special election, senior citizens are most likely to turn out to vote and Ossoff trails the Republicans in support from that demographic. Ossoff is depending on younger Democrats turning out, but there is no evidence they will.

The effort Democrats are pouring into the sixth to send a message has seen eight million dollars potentially go to waste. That is eight million dollars that will not be spent on other races. That is eight million dollars that will not be spent on redistricting fights. That eight million has gotten Ossoff flattering profiles on leftwing blogs, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, but has not gotten him much in Georgia.

Yes, he is running an ad blitz, but it is a tone deaf ad blitz. He is running ads on conservative talk radio featuring Hank Johnson and John Lewis, two men routinely ridiculed by the conservative hosts to which the audiences listen. In an effort to raise his name identification, he is raising his party profile as well. In a heavily Republican district, even one that is not excited about Trump, that can be more a liability than an asset.

Ossoff has masterfully played the press for fawning profiles. He has masterfully worked liberal donors nationally who have contributed vastly more to him than anyone in Georgia. This Saturday they will find out whether or not it was a worthwhile investment.

About the author

Erick Erickson

View all posts