Normally a single fill-in special congressional election means very little. Most congressional districts are what we might regard as "safe", that is, as a result of redistricting, the left-leaning districts are lefter than 50 years ago, and the right-leaning districts are righter. It's what happens when the courts get hairy about making sure that people of a favored minority race are "represented", even though it polarizes Congress.
This particular Tuesday, the race for the 6th District in the great State of Georgia, however, was a remarkable one for a few reasons. The race was only necessary because its previous representative, Dr. Tom Price, was elevated by President Trump to become Secretary of Health and Human Services. The laws of the state being what they were, all the candidates were lumped into a single ballot, where no one candidate received 50% necessitating a subsequent ballot this past Tuesday.
Karen Handel, the Republican who polled highest in the first voting, went against Jon Ossoff, the Democrat with the highest vote (Ossoff was close to 50% in the first election, but not quite there; Handel had been only around 25% but had a lot of other Republicans in the race who split the ballot).
What did it all mean?
Well, the attributes of the candidates notwithstanding, this race became the single most expensive congressional race in the history of the nation. About $50 million was spent, far the majority by Democrats. We certainly have to assume they wanted this race badly, although no doubt the Republicans did as well.
Now, if the Democrats wanted it that much, they might have actually found a candidate who, you know, lives in the Georgia 6th District. Just saying. Or maybe someone with some elective experience or public service. Maybe they thought that Donald Trump broke that barrier (actually, Ronald Reagan pretty much did when he ran for Governor of California, or maybe George Murphy when he ran for Senator from Cali... OK, you get it).
Either way, the Democrats wanted the seat enough that they pulled the full-on Hillary Clinton and tried to buy the election by grossly outspending the Republicans. And, of course, it worked out just as well as it did for Hillary. Millions poured into the campaign on the Democrats' side, but it wasn't enough, and it wasn't coming from Georgia.
Out of the top five states from which money came into the Ossoff campaign, Georgia, which should have been the leader by far, was not. It wasn't second, either. The largest state source of donations to the Ossoff campaign was New York, followed closely by California. Only then came Georgia, with Illinois and Massachusetts rounding out the top five. So the preponderance of the money came from four states whose leftist, Democrat-led legislatures have run their states' finances into the ground and/or tax their citizens into submission, but whose voters still elect Democrats to make their laws.
The money from California and New York was a cool topic, too, coming not only from PACs but from Hollywood and other entertainment types committed to leftist causes. Apparently they have no end of money -- I must be in the wrong business; there wasn't that much disposable income when I was an actor. After all, they gave bazillions to Hillary with absolutely nothing to show for it; all that money is gone, gone, gone, but I guess they have enough left over to blow on a losing cause in a Georgia congressional race. The movie biz must really be roaring.
So back to the topic. What does it all mean?
Well, let us recall that the polling, almost all of it right up to the day of the election, had Ossoff winning in a close race. We also had a lot of the media making the election out to be a referendum on President Trump. Both are worth discussing.
I'll start with the latter. Was it a referendum on the president? Well, actually I agree with that, at least to the extent that local elections ever do reflect the presidential politics of the day. I say that specifically because neither of the candidates was an incumbent, or had much of a track record in public elected office, so it was not a personality contest. Handel made a fair and loud (and reasonable) point of the fact that Ossoff didn't live in the district, but mostly it was a vision election, and the vision was above the pay grade of the candidates, if you know what I mean.
Certainly the media made it a Trump-referendum election, at least before Tuesday. Since the media lost the election, they'll probably jump on what a poor candidate selection was made, and that President Trump is still the evil, Russia-conniving person they want us to believe and it was all Ossoff's fault, for the eleven minutes they will even discuss it -- no one likes to dwell on losing. And at least from a tweeting perspective, the president himself seemed to have felt that his prestige was on the line.
So if we were all right that it was a presidential approval referendum, well, score one for Mr. Trump. He won the day and now has a 4-0 record in the political races since his election. There is surely some meaning there.
But let's go back to the polls, if we may.
Pollsters in November were apologizing all over the place for blowing the presidential race. They overwhelmingly forecast something between a Hillary win and a big Hillary win, and when the "only poll that counts" was over, they were wrong beyond belief. I'm personally mad at them, because instead of a real popcorn-and-diet-soda party to sweat out election night, I had hours of depression not thinking there was a chance of a good outcome. I'd like to have re-lived that night, starting with more optimism.
The only thing holding me up leading up to the November election, surprisingly, was Brexit. I was hoping that the British referendum to withdraw from the European Union meant that "unpopular" (i.e., against what the left wanted) opinions and candidates would under-poll, and that Trump had 4-5% more support than he was actually polling -- which turned out right.
Sure enough, Handel beat Ossoff by 4-5 points more than the average of the polls was showing. The Brexit effect hit yet again, and it has gotten to where that appears to be a characteristic of polling related to President Trump, or to anti-globalist issue polling and candidates.
That is probably the subtle takeaway from the Georgia 6th election. The more a race is about what Donald Trump stands for -- the taking back of America from the leftists and globalists, the more we're likely to see a 4-5 point under-polling. In this case, the question about whether this was a Trump-referendum election is answered by the difference between the polling and the balloting.
That is, the fact that Handel under-polled is what tells us this was a Trump referendum vote.
And, as he continually does, he won again. #nottiredofwinning
Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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