Georgia Democrat, Jon Ossof, began his campaign by urging his constituents to “make Trump furious.” Now as the hours tick down to the special election in the Republican-leaning suburbs of Atlanta, Ossof is speaking in measured and moderate tones to build consensus. He rarely even mentions Trump by name, instead, focuses on the local economic development and cutting government spending.
The race between Ossof and his Republican opposition, Karen Handel, is the most expensive congressional contest in U.S. history. Polls indicate that it is headed for a very close finish in Tuesday’s election. If Ossof’s campaign is successful, it will surely make Republicans nervous about next year’s elections. It will also serve as a template for Democrats on how to run their campaign.
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“It would send a very strong message across the country that we can win these kinds of seats,” said Representative Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat who campaigned with Ossoff in Georgia this week.
But the downside for Democrats is how much they have to lose if Handel pulls out a victory. Democrats lost two special House elections earlier this year in conservative Kansas and Montana districts that Trump won by double digits in November. But this district in Georgia was much more competitive; Trump won but by just one percentage point. If Ossof loses this election, it would seem to be a nail in the coffin for a party that just can’t secure a deeper message than “we’re not Trump.” Republicans have seen unprecedented power in recent years. They not only control the White House and both chambers of Congress, but they also hold 33 governor’s offices.
When Ossof began his campaign using the “make Trump furious” slogan, he became endeared to national anti-Trump activists and received loads of money. It pushed him ahead of his 17 rivals in the primaries. But it wasn’t enough to secure a win, falling short of a majority, and forcing a run-off with Handel. The money for Ossof kept pouring in, raising $24 million by the end of May which is five times the amount raised by Handel, the former Georgia secretary of state.
Handel is not buying Ossof’s move to the center and his new moderate language. “He’s trying to portray himself as something that he is not. He is Nancy Pelosi’s hand-picked candidate,” Handel told reporters this week. “He is an ultra-liberal. His values do not align with this district,” she said.
Trump, who visited Georgia to raise money for Handel in late April, has called the election “Hollywood vs. Georgia” because of all the outside money that has poured in for Ossof.
Time is ticking away, soon the drama in Georgia will be done and one side will claim a huge victory. Who do you think it will be?