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What John Culberson Can Learn From Jon Ossoff's Showing In Georgia

20 April 2017

President Donald Trump says Democrats in Georgia are "failing" after a congressional election that's now headed to a runoff.

Many saw this seat - a conservative stronghold vacated by now-Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price - as a bellwether for 2018, and the race had observers wondering what other congressional contests have the potential to up-end, or at least jostle, the status quo. They came up short, and if you look at what - his percentage of what it was presidentially, it pretty much tracks.

(AP Photo/David Goldman). A voter casts a ballot in a special election in Atlanta, Tuesday, April 18, 2017. "He's got to recognize that Handel is at the advantage, [and] recognize that there are limits to the number of Democratic voters" in the district.

Ossoff, who is leading the field of 18 candidates, stressed that the race is about local economic issues "before it is about the national political circus".

She treated Trump gingerly throughout the campaign in a district he barely won in November, but the president called to congratulate her Wednesday morning and Handel said she hoped he'd campaign for her. It has remained a Republican fortress since 1978 when it was won by Newt Gingrich, the future speaker of the House of Representatives who led a Republican revolution in the 1990s.

The White House, which monitored the elections closely, pushed back against the suggestion it was a referendum on Trump.

Demographic changes have made Georgia's affluent 6th Congressional District more competitive for Democrats.

Trump weighed in Tuesday, urging Republicans to get to the polls, and tweeting: "Democrat Jon Ossoff would be a disaster in Congress".

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Under normal circumstances a Republican win would be in little doubt.

The president pulled off his upset victory by winning traditionally Democratic states such as MI and Pennsylvania while underperforming in some affluent and well-educated Republican suburbs, including in deep red Southern states.

As for whether Trump will campaign with Handel, Spicer said: "We'll see if we're needed". The nearest Republican - former state secretary of state Karen Handel - came in at just 19.8 percent. He raised a $8.3 million, of which 95 percent came from donors outside of the district.

To date Democrats have been unable to translate such energy into tangible election victories in the Trump era.

"We have an army of volunteers", he told CNN.

"First of all, Georgia's Sixth Congressional District - the fact that Jon Ossoff pulled in five or six points more than most Republicans thought that he would have, and Lindsey Graham said this is a wakeup call to the Republican Party, that there's a lot of moderates that need to emerge in the South to a greater degree that the Republican Party needs to pay attention to", a reporter said.

It has a large proportion of well-educated voters who are reliably Republican but frustrated by Trump.

Last week, a Democrat challenging for an open congressional seat in a deep-red district in Kansas fell short of an upset. "And I think that's the potential to have implications for 2018 - if people get mobilized and get excited".