In Georgia and Montana, the 2 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs with both the GOP and Democrats duking it out to maintain the current battle lines in the House.
After a bloody jungle primary where candidates on all sides pummeled each other with attack after attack on any number of topics, the field has narrowed to 2 candidates: Former Secretary of State Karen Handel (GOP), and businessman Jon Ossoff (Democratic). Now that we know the two final candidates, the race changes significantly.
Before, it was quite possible Ossoff could take over 50%, and walk away as winner. Now that the GOP has stopped that possibility, and has consolidated support behind Handel, the head to head matchup must favor Handel, however slightly.
Let’s look at the raw numbers. Ossoff and the other Democratic candidates totaled 93,911 votes, which totals to approximately 48.9 percent of total votes in the jungle race. The GOP received 98,173 votes, or 51.1 percent of the votes. The numbers show that this can be a very, very close race.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, demographics don’t play out in their favor. The 2017 Cook PVI for the district is R+8… and that’s after Trump took the district by 1 point… This puts significant pressure on the Democrats to ratchet up and invest in their get out the vote efforts. They will need to ensure every single Democratic voter goes to the polls if they want to remain competitive in the race.
Early voting will once again not be a great indicator of turnout and results, as it usually isn’t. Early voting almost always favors the Democrats, and will likely do so once more in this case. If you see the Democrats building a commanding lead in the early voting tallies, do not get too far ahead of yourself. The race will tighten back up.
Another thing to consider is money, and how consolidated the base of each candidate will be. For both candidates, fundraising is no issue. Both have raised millions of dollars since the jungle primary, and have millions of out of state dollars coming in through independent expenditures. However, a key to this race is whether Handel can consolidate Trump supporters. Luckily, the President has tweeted his support and is traveling to the district to help campaign for Handel. Conservatives will vote for Handel because they won’t want to see a Democrat candidate win this race one way or another. Continue watching for news on Handel’s efforts to ensure the GOP base is fully behind her.
On the other hand, a major key for Ossoff is ensuring Democratic energy remains as high, perhaps even higher than in the jungle primary. If they can turn out as many voters, or more than the jungle primary, they will have a decent shot of winning, but not a great shot. GOP voters do outnumber Democrat voters in the district.
Both candidates have their deep flaws though, which will likely cancel each other out along partisan lines. Handel is the definition of a career politician. Her only previous office held is Secretary of State, but she’s failed in previous runs for higher office a number of times. On the other hand, Ossoff doesn’t live in the district, which has welcomed the GOP to call Ossoff a carpet bagger.
With millions of dollars being poured into TV, radio, mail, digital, and other forms of advertising, GA06 voters are surely tired of this never-ending campaign season. The numbers are too tight for it to be tilt either way, but I think the GOP will win the race by no more than 10,000 votes. All things considered, demographics and partisan leanings will ultimately be what puts Handel over the top.
Regardless of the outcome of the race, the Democrats will pull inspiration from the fact they’ve put a relatively safe GOP district into play. Many people on the Democrat side view this race as a referendum on Trump, but they fail to realize that Trump only won the district by a point. Trump wasn’t popular there to begin with. Considering his lack of popularity in the district, I believe that this label has been placed by the national Democratic establishment. Consider that 95% of Ossoff’s campaign committee’s money has come from out of the district, this further reinforces the point.
Another interesting race is the Montana At-Large Congressional District. Montana is a R+11 state, where Trump won by 20 points. Enter businessman and failed 2016 Gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte. The Democrats have tried to label him a carpetbagger among other things, even though he’s lived in Montana since 1995. His opponent is musician and political novice Rob Quist. Both the GOP and Democrats have pumped lots of money into the race, considering TV ads are cheaper in Montana, this represents a significant investment.
The latest public poll says that Gianforte is up by 15 points, at 52-37. Quist is outperforming Clinton’s performance by a point and a half. No significant gain and the outcome will be a decisive GOP hold.
The natural follow-up question on the Montana race becomes what does this tell us about the contentious Montana Senate race, and the general national climate in 2018? Senator Tester seems vulnerable due to Gianforte’s victory.
However, Montanans aren’t against voting for Democrats in statewide races. Governor Bullock and Senator Tester’s victories are perfect examples. Right now, there isn’t a high-profile GOP recruit to face Tester, who was involved in the 2012 Thornton Law Firm Campaign Finance Scandal.
Looking ahead to 2018, I am a firm believer that we should wait and see, especially in Montana. These races do indicate that the Democrats could have a big 2018 in the House, but then again, President Trump’s Twitter Account will help turn out GOP voters to protect his agenda. I am certainly curious to see the effects of the Trump presidency on the House of Representatives specifically. It will be very interesting with the Senate map favoring the Republicans in 2018, and with the Democrats on the attack in the House of Representatives.
Follow me on Twitter at @TweetsByAranyi for more of my thoughts.