Republican former Secretary of State Karen Handel defied most polling and the political prognosticators last night in the northern Atlanta suburbs, defeating Democratic filmmaker and former congressional aide Jon Ossoff, 52-48%, in a race that saw almost 260,000 people cast their ballots. The total turnout exceeded the last regular mid-term participation rate here by a whopping 24%. The big story was of course the Ossoff campaign’s spending, which will likely total in the neighborhood of $33 million when the final accounting is published, an all-time record for a congressional campaign. The aggregate spending for all committees participating in this contest will likely exceed $50 million. In the end, voters in a Republican district selected the Republican candidate, and sent the Democrats to a crushing defeat in a race where they raised expectations to an unrealistic level. Money poured in from across the country, but particularly from the Democratic donor base in New York, California, and Massachusetts.
Having so much money may have ironically done Ossoff some damage. It allowed Handel and the Republican apparatus to link the 30-year old first-time candidate to the national political left, referencing all the money coming in from liberal locales especially when relatively little came from Georgia, and sending his campaign into an “overkill” mode. Spending so much on so few – his spending was at least ten times the level normally seen for a race of this type – can have the effect of driving some swing voters away, and that may well have happened here. But, with money coming into the Ossoff campaign like it was shot from a fire hose, the Democrat’s managers would have a difficult time explaining to donors why they didn’t use all of their resources if they chose to bank some of the money or sending some to other candidates or entities, such as Archie Parnell who was simultaneously running in a special election in neighboring South Carolina.
Much will be written about this race, but the end result could not have turned out worse for national Democrats. Going “all-in” on this particular special election, the Democratic national leadership now sustains a major black eye and will be subject to great internal criticism for their targeting decisions, especially when Mr. Parnell, in a race the party brain trust conceded from the onset, actually performed better than the anointed Ossoff.
The Rundown Blog
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