Putting the Ossoff Loss in Perspective
In the wake of the special election loss in GA-06, and other Democratic losses over the past several months, we wanted to give you some thoughts that have gone unaddressed. Republicans frame their victories as vindication for Trump and the GOP agenda. Democrats are split on whether we should go further left or if its the far left that's losing races.
None of these perspectives does true justice to explain what happened in Georgia's 6th. Dave compiled the following thoughts to help explain the loss in the context of the 2018 elections.
Two Different Kinds of GOP Districts
Like the neighboring 7th District, Georgia's 6th District covers the suburbs of Atlanta. These districts supported Romney by 22- and 24-point margins, respectively. But GA-07 gave Trump a 6-point win and GA-06 gave Trump a 2-point win. Trump severely under-performed Romney's win in districts like this all over the country, including the suburbs of Houston (TX-02, TX-07, TX-22), Dallas (TX-24, TX-32), Salt Lake City (UT-03, UT-04), and Miami (FL-25), and in Orange County, California (CA-45, CA-48).
In these districts, Democrats are likely to find it easier to win than it was a few years ago, but (as we saw in Georgia) it's still tough. These well-off, educated Republicans might be embarrassed by Trump's behavior, but not willing to support a Democrat for Congress.
On the flip side, there are rural districts in the Midwest (MN-01, MN-07, MN-08, IL-12, WI-06, WI-07, WI-08) and Northeast (NY-21, NY-22, NY-23, ME-02) where Trump performed significantly better than Romney. Republicans have reason to be hopeful for these kinds of districts, but they will definitely lose some of them if their health care bill passes or if the economy turns south.
Take Out the Money, and What Do You Get?
The special election in GA-06 was the most expensive House race in history. About $30 million was spent by or for Ossoff, and about $25 million was spent by or for Handel. All this money probably did Ossoff more harm than good. For one thing, the idea of liberal elites from outside Georgia pitching in for Ossoff probably offended some undecided conservatives. But more importantly, it allowed Handel to spend a lot of money to get the GOP base out to vote. Without it, Republicans would have been at the mercy of a huge enthusiasm gap.
On the same night in rural South Carolina, Democrat Archie Parnell surprised everyone by coming within 2.5 points of winning the conservative SC-05. The two candidates spent about $2 million, whereas upwards of $60 million was spent in GA-06.
Democrats are Over-Performing by Huge Margins
A loss is a loss and it surely doesn't help our morale to lose, but Democrats are still doing better than they should in these districts. Keep in mind that GA-06 is an R+8 district. According to the Cook Political Report's post-election analysis, if Democrats were to continue to outperform their "generic share" of the vote by these margins, they would pick up 80 seats in 2018.
And although that's not going to happen, there are 58 GOP-held seats that are R+5 or better, including House Speaker Paul Ryan's. If Democrats win less than half of those they would take back the House.
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What We're Reading
This week Dave is recommending How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization.
"Those who know me know I'm a big soccer fan, but you don't need to be to appreciate the stories told in this book. As one of the testimonials on the back says, it's 'significantly entertaining if you like soccer, and entertainingly significant if you do not.' Topics include the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, Jewish and Catalonian identity politics, cultural exchange, hope for Iran, and financial corruption in a world that is getting smaller. While a bit dated and definitely biased at times, it is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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