Tuesday’s contest in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District to fill the seat of now-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has gotten the president’s attention. He tweeted, “The super Liberal Democrat in the Georgia Congressioal [sic] race tomorrow wants to protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes!” However unintentionally, this line of crude attack may well remind many upscale Republican and Democratic voters in this district why they dislike President Trump. He barely carried the district, running almost 20 points behind Price in November. (NBC News finds: “Tom Price got 62% of the vote in this highly educated and affluent Atlanta-area district in 2016, and Mitt Romney took 61% in 2012. But Trump barely beat Hillary Clinton here in 2016, 48%-47%.”)
Democrat Jon Ossoff, for the record, is running as a moderate. On crime, his website says, “Violent crime, murder, rape, human trafficking, and corruption are rampant, while we spend billions locking up nonviolent drug offenders.” On taxes and the economy, he’s not supporting a tax hike. Rather, he argues, that as “a small business owner, executive, and entrepreneur — the CEO of a company that produces documentaries investigating organized crime and political corruption … he knows what it means to grow a company, meet a payroll, and balance budgets.” He says he wants “to reduce the tax burden on small businesses and simplify small business tax filing … [and] repeal wasteful, anti-competitive special interest subsidies that make it hard for entrepreneurs to raise capital, enter the market, create jobs, and compete with larger firms who have lobbyists in Washington.”
Ossoff is no doubt delighted to have gotten under Trump’s skin since he has been running right at Trump’s conflicts of interest, attempt to roll back Obamacare and unpresidential demeanor. Ossoff now has the president’s word for it — he really is the most anti-Trump candidate.
Ossoff is unlikely to break the 50 percent mark Tuesday and thereby avoid a runoff. Nevertheless, he would remain in a strong position to flip the seat in the general election. “While Republicans’ odds of holding on to this seat increase in a two-person race, the polling — which hasn’t been of the greatest quality, mind you — shows Ossoff running competitively against the top-tier Republicans in a runoff,” NBC News reports. “The nonpartisan Cook Political Report is designating the overall contest as a Toss Up.” Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight agrees that Ossoff has a real shot at the seat:
We’re in a somewhat Democratic-leaning environment right now, given Trump’s poor approval ratings, a modest Democratic advantage on the generic congressional ballot and the results of last week’s special election in Kansas. That should mitigate some of Georgia 6’s Republican lean. For another thing, a couple of polls, such as [the Opinion Savvy poll showing him winning by more than 20 points], have tested prospective runoff matchups, and they’ve usually shown Ossoff a percentage point or two ahead of Handel and other Republicans. It’s not much of a “lead,” but it suggests that a runoff might at least be a toss-up for him.
In other words, even in a very Republican district, Ossoff is demonstrating that running against Trump is a smart play. And as Trump’s numbers get even worse, that tactic will be the default setting for challengers in just about every marginally competitive race. The trend line for Trump and the GOP isn’t good.
Gallup’s poll, for example, finds:
President Donald Trump’s image among Americans as someone who keeps his promises has faded in the first two months of his presidency, falling from 62% in February to 45%. The public is also less likely to see him as a “strong and decisive leader,” as someone who “can bring about the changes this country needs” or as “honest and trustworthy.”
Among independents, he has dropped 16 point on the question as to whether he has kept his promises.
Even worse for Republicans, Trump seems to be pulling down the image of the party as a whole. Pew finds: “The new Congress is viewed about as unfavorably as the previous Congress. And while both parties are viewed less positively than in January, the GOP’s ratings are more negative than the Democratic Party’s.” Republicans who stand foursquare behind Trump may want to rethink their position:
Trump’s overall job rating stands at 39%, the same as it was in February. As was the case then, his job rating today is lower — and more politically divided — than other recent presidents at comparable points in their first year. . . . In addition, fewer than half (46%) are very or somewhat confident in Trump’s ability to work effectively with Congress; in December, this had been seen as a relative strength for Trump – 60% were confident he could work well with Congress. Over this period, the share expressing confidence in Trump to avoid major scandals in his administration also has fallen eight percentage points, from 44% to 36%.
In sum, the GA-6 results on Tuesday are unlikely to preclude a runoff. Nevertheless, Ossoff is poised for a big win. Climbing over 17 other candidates with a resolutely anti-Trump message in a very Republican district is no small feat. Moreover, the election will speak volumes about the degree to which Trump is now a weight around Republicans’ necks. Democrats hope that continues through the 2018 election.