There were special elections held on Tuesday in South Carolina and Georgia. The race in South Carolina went to the Republican as expected, though the margin of victory was a lot slimmer than most anticipated. But the eyes of the country were on Georgia Tuesday, where Democrat Jon Ossoff faced Republican Karen Handel for the house seat vacated by HHS Secretary Tom Price.
Ossoff is a 30 year-old who doesn’t live in the district where he sought office, but he still got 49% of the vote before Tuesday’s runoff with Handel. Record money was poured into his campaign, most of which came from outside the district. Democrats saw an Ossoff victory as a way to send a message to President Trump that Americans - even in Georgia where he won comfortably - do not support his agenda.
But Ossoff lost.
And now Democrats who built this race up as a referendum on the president are backtracking while Republicans who downplayed it are building it up as a major win for the President’s agenda.
The truth - as it usually is - lies somewhere in between.
Frankly, this race was never as important as people made it out to be. It reminded me a lot of the special election in upstate NY early in President Obama’s term where a tea party candidate surged and it looked like he may win a seat unexpectedly. Republicans rallied around him and said if he won, it would be a huge repudiation of the Obama agenda.
He lost just like Ossoff, but it really didn’t matter much. The Republicans did very well in the mid-terms and the special election faded quickly into the abyss.
In reality, while the President’s approval ratings are low, we won’t know exactly what that may mean from a practical sense until 2018. He still has time to deliver, and if the economy does well, he may overcome his early struggles. But it is way too soon to know what any of this will really mean, if it means anything at all.
One special election won’t tell the tale and anybody who says otherwise is merely guessing or trying to drive ratings.
Though in today’s political climate, you’d be hard pressed to distinguish between the two.