If you really thought Jon Ossoff was going to win Tuesday night’s special election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, you were living in denial. Did he stand a chance? Sure. But Democrats didn’t dump an obscene amount of money into that race because it was a easily-winnable district in which they thought they should get a victory. They spent all that money because it was a race they didn’t think they could win, were surprised by how well Ossoff was polling, and realized that it would be foolish to pass up the potential for a massive upset.
That’s the keyword in all of this: Upset.
This was a race for Tom Price’s old district. He vacated it when he took the position as Donald Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services.
You know who else once represented Georgia’s 6th District?
Yeah, this guy.
In fact, the last Democrat to represent Georgia’s 6th District was John James Flynt Jr. — in 1979.
So this is a district that hasn’t had a Democrat represent it in nearly 40 years, yet a 30-year-old Democrat, who almost nobody had heard of a year ago, only lost the race by less than four points to former Secretary of the State of Georgia Karen Handel.
To put this into some more context, here are a couple of stats:
- Of Tom Price’s last five elections where he had a Democratic challenger, here are his percentages for margins of victory: 24, 32, 30, 36, and 44.
- George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney won the district in their various presidential elections by an average margin of victory of 31 points.
Sure, Trump only won the district over Hillary Clinton by one point, but that doesn’t negate the fact that Georgia’s 6th District is a very conservative district that’s overwhelmingly supported the Republican Party since 1979.
The story here shouldn’t be that Democrats lost, but that a relative no-name 30-year-old came within less than four points of being the first Democrat to win Georgia’s 6th District in nearly four decades. That shows how toxic Trump is making things for the GOP, as a whole.
As Cook Political Report tweeted out, even though Democrats didn’t win, they’re outperforming the partisan lean of their districts by an average of eight points in the last five elections:
— CookPoliticalReport (@CookPolitical) June 21, 2017
Granted, we need to start seeing victories in these races, but we’re talking about Democrats outperforming their expected results in districts that are traditionally more conservative.
That’s a huge deal.
With the midterms right around the corner, if this trend keeps up, Democrats could be looking at huge congressional gains next year if they’re able to mobilize voters and get them behind quality candidates. While they might not be able to steal many (if any) “strongly Republican” districts, they could snatch victories in many of the districts that are much more moderate or only slightly lean toward Republicans. If they do that, then it’s very possible they could seize back the House and possibly the Senate, too.
So while a lot of the media is pushing doom and gloom for Democrats following Tuesday’s loss, I think that’s a gross misrepresentation of what actually happened.
Yes, Democrats would have liked to have stolen a victory. But the fact that Ossoff performed so well in this particular district, along with Democratic candidates outperforming the partisan leans in many of the races they’ve lost in districts that are typically conservative, is proof that the party is moving in the right direction — they just need to fine-tune their message to sell why they’re the better party. Other than, as they’ve done too much of here lately, presenting themselves as, “We’re not Trump so vote for us.”
I’ve never been a big “moral victory” person, but I think that’s valid here. Democrats might not win a lot of these races in strongly-conservative areas, but the fact that they’re performing better than they should is a sign that, in areas of the country that are much more favorable, they could pick up some big victories that could bring Congress back to the Democratic Party.