Monday, June 12, 2017


The special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District will take place on June 20, and according to political analyst Stuart Rothenberg, it will be a spirit-crushing disaster for the Democrats if Jon Ossoff loses:
Almost a Must-Win for Democrats in Georgia 6

Democratic strategists may hate the idea that they must win the June 20 special election in Georgia’s 6th District, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Jon Ossoff’s defeat would not tell us what will happen seventeen months from now in the 2018 midterms any more than Republican Tim Burns’ defeat in a 2010 Pennsylvania special election presaged that year’s midterm outcome nationally. And it probably wouldn’t impact Democratic recruiting much or dry up fund raising for very long.
Okay, so what's the problem?
But a Democratic loss would have a significant impact on the political narrative of the summer and early fall, right up to November’s gubernatorial contests in New Jersey and Virginia.
Wait -- what? This is going to have an impact on governor's races several states away? In Virginia, polls show that both leading Democrats, Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello, have double-digit leads over likely GOP nominee Ed Gillespie, in a state Hillary Clinton won by 5 points. In New Jersey, Republican primary voters chose the hated Chris Christie's lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, and Democrat Phil Murphy has a lead over Guadagno that's just over 20 points. Does Rothenberg think Virginia and New Jersey voters are going to vote based on the national narrative, as defined by a distant congressional election that will have taken place four months earlier? That's crazy. In both races, voters might be casting a ballot against the party of Trump, but they won't remember the Georgia 6th race.

The Washington Monthly's D.R. Tucker is even more apocalyptic:
If Ossoff Loses, Forget About Impeaching Trump

... If Jon Ossoff cannot take that seat away from the GOP (which has controlled it for 38 years), then no Republican member of the House or Senate anywhere in the country will be afraid of remaining deferential to Trump. A Handel win would mean that Republican voters are simply unwilling to switch sides under any circumstances, and will remain loyal to the GOP, no matter how corrupt or compromised the party is, simply to achieve partisan aims.

... Russia will not matter. Bad poll numbers will not matter. The only things that will matter are elections and the blind, unshakable, fact-resistant loyalty Republican voters show when those elections, special or regular, come around.
However, his Washington Monthly colleague Martin Longman thinks the special election is all but irrelevant, mostly because the race is likely to be close:
... I don’t actually think it should matter whether the Democrat in the 6th, Jon Ossoff, wins by a thousand votes or loses by a thousand votes. The overall message to other Republicans should be the same either way, and that’s that they can lose in the era of Trump if their constituents are well-educated enough.

... it’s bullshit to build a narrative around the idea the Democrats are either doomed or on the path to victory based on a result that is going to be pretty close to 50-50. A narrow loss or a narrow win should have exactly the same lesson, which is that historically Republican districts in affluent well-educated suburbs are now competitive battlefields. I don’t dispute that a narrative will be created around the result and that it will have some influence, but I discount how much influence it will have. For one thing, a falsely positive narrative is as likely to screw over the Democrats as it is to give them a big edge in energy and unity. If you doubt this, ask Hillary Clinton.
I'd add that a falsely positive narrative in the event of a Handel victory could screw over Republicans. If they believe Democrats are always going to lose the close ones, they might underestimate the anti-Trump and anti-GOP anger in the less-red parts of the country, even as it builds in the next year or so, and be unprepared for a possible Democratic wave in 2018.

My belief is that Democrats ought to be able to take back the House in 2018, because Trump isn't going to get any better at being president and there are likely to be more and more revelations of Trump Team misdeeds. On the other hand, the GOP/Trump base is likely to hold, and Republicans in Congress will remain loyal to the president no matter what happens in Georgia -- even if that becomes suicidal. Remember that the rest of the GOP didn't even distance itself from George W. Bush after the 2006 midterm thumpin' -- no 2008 GOP primary candidate would even express skepticism about the Iraq War, with the exception of longtime war skeptic Ron Paul. That's just the way Republicans are.

Maybe, just maybe, the June 20 Georgia election will have an impact on one or two senators as Mitch McConnell tries to ram a version of the American Health Care Act through the Senate the following week. Could an Ossoff victory -- perhaps a surprisingly decisive Ossoff victory -- be enough to scare some of the Senate's GOP semi-moderates into backing away from the AHCA?

Okay, here's a grand pronouncement: If Ossoff wins by 7, as a couple of polls suggest he could, the AHCA will die in the Senate.

Do I believe that? I don't know -- Republicans are awfully stubborn. (See also the successful House impeachment vote that took place shortly after Republicans lost the 1998 midterms.) But it's the one small break in GOP solidarity I can imagine before 2018.

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