After what seems like a years-long campaign and tens of millions of dollars spent on a special election that both national parties eyed as a hugely symbolic one, Republican Karen Handel emerged from the Georgia special election Tuesday night with a larger-than-expected, four-point victory.
The result set off a round of gloating from Republicans — up to and including those with the surname “Trump” — and some serious teeth-gnashing among Democrats, who were clearly and publicly frustrated by their inability to win a race despite a firm belief that Trump’s unpopularity is their ticket to winning elections.
Drawing those big, national conclusions from one out of 435 congressional districts — especially one that I argued Tuesday is highly unique in the Age of Trump — is always a fraught exercise. But here are some things we can say after Tuesday night, in the form of winners and losers.
The GOP brand: Democrats who don’t believe the sky is falling will gladly point out that Georgia’s 6th is a district they’ve regularly lost by 20 points or more for years, including when then-Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) was reelected last year before being plucked to become health and human services secretary. About the only indication it could be competitive was Trump’s narrow, 1.5-percentage point win over Hillary Clinton that same day. This is why Democrats went all-in in Georgia.
In the end, it was a bad and expensive bet. They tried hard and lost, and Republicans tried hard and won, period. And it reinforces the idea that Republicans in such districts — i.e. highly affluent, suburban ones where Trump struggled — aren’t necessarily doomed by Trump’s unpopularity. We saw that in the 2016 election, when Republicans kept winning these districts despite Trump. If that continues to be the case in 2018, Democrats’ task of winning back the majority just became much more difficult.
Karen Handel: Yes, of course she won, so she’s a winner. But she had plenty on the line here. When she emerged as the de facto GOP nominee, I noted how her recent history of lackluster Senate and governor campaigns — not to mention her unceremonious exit from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation — would make her an attractive scapegoat if things went south for the GOP. Instead, she beat expectations and now joins Congress in a seat that should be hers for years to come.
Read more at The Washington Post.