My Gut Tells Me Ossoff Will Narrowly Lose

The polls just opened a little more than an hour ago, so it will be a while before we get some initial, meaningful results. More than $50 million has been spent so far in the contest, making it the most expensive House campaign in history. If roughly the same number of voters who participated in the April 17 special election cast a vote in today’s runoff, the combined campaigns will have spent around $125 per vote. Given the power of incumbency in general terms, it might be a reasonable down payment toward longevity for whoever wins.

As I type this, I have this sinking feeling that Ossoff will get close, closer than any Democrat has thus far in this year’s special elections. Yet, close will mean still falling short of the prize. Oh, how I hope my gut is wrong.

Regardless of who actually wins, both sides will claim victory. On the Republican side, a Handel win will be seen as a positive referendum on Trump and his policies. This is particularly true if Handle wins by more than a 1.5 point margin, the margin by which Georgia 6 chose Trump over Clinton. On the Democratic side, a Handel win could be downplayed by emphasizing how close Ossoff came to victory, in line with how other Democrats fared better than expected (while still ultimately losing) in other special elections.

So what about those other special elections?

  • Kansas: Estes (R) won Kansas 4 over Thompson (D) by a 7-point margin in a district that Trump won by 27 points. Democratic traction? Yes.
  • Gianforte (R) won Montana’s sole House seat over Quist (D) by a 6-point margin in a state that Trump carried by 20 points. Democratic traction? Yes.

Given those results, if Ossoff loses by a 1.5-point margin or higher, pundits may declare the recent Democratic traction as stalled. In fact, it’s hard to disagree with that stance. If both Thompson and Quist could erode the level of support from Trump’s base during the Kansas and Montana special elections, what if Ossoff can’t? What does that say about him as a candidate? About the Democratic National Committee’s decision to fund his campaign — did it go far enough or intervene early enough to make a difference?

Oh, by the way…I’m praying for comments tomorrow telling me how I called this wrong. I so want to be wrong. You can even say it in that horrible sounding way Trump used the word in one of the presidential debates with Clinton. For the first time, it would be music to my ears.