The lessons from special elections

The Republicans in Georgia just received a big “Scott Brown” scare in the special election yesterday (4-18).  They still do in June. The district covers some of Atlanta’s northern suburbs and is historically Republican. Trump struggled there, barely winning the district after Romney, McCain and previous representative Tom Price won it easily.

While this is something to keep an eye on, it’s not necessarily a precursor of things to come in 2018 for the following reasons.

  • Georgia’s elections are different as they have a nonpartisan style where the top 2 make the runoff unless one gets 50%

There were 5 D candidates, only one of which was really serious in this campaign. All the D’s pushed Jon Ossoff. There were 11 R candidates, four of which were serious. That split the vote enough to guarantee that Jon Ossoff makes the runoff with the Republican with the most votes, Karen Handel.

  • Special elections are low turnout.

These are about getting the base to the polls. To put things in perspective, Ossoff got 92,390 votes. The combined D’s got 93,911. Tom Price’s opponent last November got 124,917, and Price was a very strong incumbent getting over 200,000 votes. The flipside of this shows danger however for June. Karen Handel got 37,993 votes. Combined R’s were only 97,997, less than half of Price’s numbers. Low turnout usually favors the party not in power and minority party in that area. That is how R’s won democrat areas in the past getting Scott Brown elected in Massachusetts, Charles Djou in Hawaii, and Joseph Cao in New Orelans. The D’s took those seats back as well.

  • Organization in the big key in special elections.

This goes with the low turnout. The D’s right now have almost nothing to lose and are organized. Their goal is to recreate a 2010 in reverse with a leftist version of tea party. While it remains to be seen if it catches fire, what is happening however is organization. Good organization is good for a few percentage points. In presidential elections, all sides are organized (to various degrees and styles). In a midterm, usually the side opposite POTUS is organized, but there’s gubernatorial campaigns and factors as well. In specials, only the race covered is on the ballot. Trump’s win is still fresh in the minds, so the D’s are highly organized this time. In addition, the R’s are organized more by their campaign teams than stopping the D’s since it was technically all against all with the Georgia system. Right now, it’s up to Karen Handel’s team to match that in the runoff.

In the end, does that mean the R’s are in danger of losing this seat? In June, yes. In November 2018, it is too early to tell. What this does show however, is that the D’s if nothing else, are strongly organized and are spending the money to contest any place they think they have a chance to win. This is much like what the R’s did with Scott Brown in the special election. Right now, I’d put the odds at 50/50 with the momentum more in Ossoff’s favor, although he didn’t hit 50%. The good news is that the R’s won’t be caught off-guard in June. If they were, they aren’t now.

Go out and win this June, and then spike the football in the media’s face.

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