The Democratic Party today: Spends $8 million to elect an unelectable candidate who doesn't live in district & there's talk of Chelsea 2020— Jeremy W. Peters (@jwpetersNYT) April 19, 2017
Bonus points for that swipe at Chelsea Clinton -- anyone know if Peters has harrumphed in response to the suggestions that Donald Trump Jr. might run for mayor or governor of New York, where his father is wildly unpopular? -- but the new target of choice, at least today, is Jon Ossoff.
Also see Peters's colleague Glenn Thrush:
On Wednesday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” New York Times White House Correspondent Glenn Thrush reported, “my inbox this morning’s been flooded by Democrats who are sort of saying Ossoff was a terrible candidate.”Here's a clue to which Democrats -- or "Democrats" -- are badmouthing Ossoff:
... Thrush added, “[H]e was not electric. He was more static electric. But I think, in general, that is an issue. Look, the other thing is, look how deep the bench was down there. There were a lot of people who wanted that seat. I think the larger issue that we’re dealing with here right now, is the fact that the Democrats just don’t have a lot of candidates, not just in Georgia, but around the country in general. There’s not a lot of people to kind of catch this Trump wave.”
Times alum Frank Rich, now at New York magazine, also puts the boot in:
This little race was fun while it lasted, and may have been the most successful jobs program (albeit for journalists) of the Trump presidency. But even if Ossoff had actually won it’s hard to see how this contest was a bellwether for 2018 or much else. Georgia’s sixth district, we keep being reminded, is “ruby red” and hasn’t sent a Democrat to the House since the state’s native son Jimmy Carter was president. But it is also a wealthy suburban Atlanta district in which Trump beat Clinton by barely a single percentage point (as opposed to Mitt Romney crushing Obama by 23 points in 2012). With a war chest of $8.3 million and facing a divided field that included 11 Republicans, Ossoff performed a shade better than Clinton (who received 47 per cent of the vote to Trump’s 48) but couldn’t put it away.So no Democrat has won a House seat there since the disco era -- but Ossoff should have won a majority yesterday, since Hillary Clinton almost won the district. In other words: Ossoff and everyone who thought he would win outright yesterday were naive to think that was a posibility, and Ossoff was inept because winning should have been a gimme. Makes perfect sense!
In fact, as we learn from Rich's New York magazine colleague Ed Kilgore -- a veteran of Georgia politics -- this was a big deal:
Jon Ossoff won a higher percentage of the vote than any Democratic congressional or presidential candidate in the sixth since it was established as a north Atlanta suburban district in 1992.But what about all that money Democrats spent?
What makes that a bit hard to grasp is that the second highest percentage was posted just last year by Hillary Clinton, who won 46.8 percent. More typical were Barack Obama’s 38 percent in 2012 and 40 percent in 2008. The last Democratic presidential candidate to carry Georgia as a whole, Bill Clinton in 1992, won just 29 percent in the sixth that year. No Democratic congressional candidate has topped 40 percent of the vote in this district since 1996.
... pro-Republican outside groups running attack ads against Ossoff, and the Republican candidates themselves, enjoyed heavy financial backing as well.... Two national GOP groups (the NRCC and Paul Ryan’s leadership PAC) spent a combined $3.9 million going after Ossoff. Karen Handel received $700,000 in ad support from the Ricketts family’s Ending Spending PAC. The Club for Growth spent a half-million attacking her and backing its endorsed candidate Bob Gray. Fourth-place finisher Dan Moody spent about $2 million of his own money. The GOP claim that Ossoff was trying to “buy” the election on an uncontested wave of money is more than misleading: there’s been plenty of money to go around.Also see "How Ryan's Super PAC Stopped an Ossoff Upset" by David Drucker, at the Washington Examiner.
"If we had waited another couple of weeks, it would have been too late," said Corry Bliss, executive director of Congressional Leadership Fund, in an interview in which he shared the super PAC's strategy.Jeremy Peters calls Ossoff "unelectable," but FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten says the general election is a tossup. That's good. As Enten has noted, this isn't even a district where Democrats should be expected to win in a majority-shifting election cycle:
... Ossoff, boosted by a combination of President Trump's middling approval ratings, the collapse of the GOP healthcare bill, and millions of dollars of in unchallenged advertising on local television, was at 42.4 percent "and gaining" momentum.
Bliss said that CLF would have preferred to husband its resources for what it presumes could be a tough midterm election, as is often the case for the party that holds the White House. Instead, the group budgeted more than $3 million, since spent, on advertising and field operations, for a rescue mission.
We know from past House elections that our best bet for measuring the political lean of a district is a weighted average of the last two presidential elections, with the most recent election weighted a bit more. By this weighted average, Georgia 6 is about 9.5 percentage points more Republican than the nation as a whole. (That is, if there were a tie in the national popular vote, a Republican would be expected to win Georgia 6 by 9.5 points.)So stop sneering, current and former Times writers. Ossoff did fine. And even if he doesn't win in June, it's likely that Democrats in much more competitive districts will.
According to this measure, 47 Republican-held House seats are more Democratic-leaning than Georgia 6 is. Democrats need to pick up only 24 seats to win back the House, so even though this is the type of seat that Democrats probably want to be competitive in, taking Georgia 6 is not a necessity for taking back the House.
Meanwhile, if we want to find media voices critical of the GOP in this race, I guess we have to turn to ... Fox News. Here's Fox's Todd Starnes:
I’d like to know who in their right mind thought it was a good idea to run eleven Republicans in Georgia’s sixth congressional district race.You don't get it, Todd. It was Democrats who screwed up in this race. Don't you read the liberal media?
Instead of a decisive victory, Republican Karen Handel is now faced with a summer runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff.
It’s as if Republican leadership fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down.
When a political novice gets the most votes in a historically Republican district – there’s a big problem....
Does anyone at the RNC seem terribly concerned that Republicans are having a difficult time winning in Republican districts?