The June 20 election for the suburban Atlanta seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price remains tight, with a survey from a Democratic polling firm finding Democrat Jon Ossoff one point ahead of Republican Karen Handel — well within the margin of error.
The poll, conducted early last week by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, found Ossoff up 48 percent to 47 percent over Handel, running strongest among those “who voted in 2016, but had not voted in 2014.” In April 18’s closely watched first round, Ossoff won 48.1 percent of the vote; Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state who has narrowly lost two recent bids for statewide office, won just 19.8 percent of the vote.
In a tweet, the pollster celebrated the numbers as good news for the first-time Democratic candidate.
— John Anzalone (@JohnAnzo) May 2, 2017
But Republicans, surprised by their underdog status in a seat that has been deep red for more than 30 years, are encouraged by any sign of Handel consolidating votes. She has not nabbed the endorsement of Dan Moody, a former legislator who ran fourth in the primary, but she enjoyed a burst of donations after the first round and a burst of attention when President Trump arrived in Atlanta for the National Rifle Association of America conference and a fundraiser.
“You’d better win,” the president joked to Handel, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Heading into the runoff’s third week, Handel also had the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which went on the air with a TV ad attacking the Democrat as a “Hollywood” candidate, a theme in ads from the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is aligned with Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).
But none of that has budged the numbers in the Ossoff-Handel showdown. In polls taken before April 18 that asked about a hypothetical runoff, Ossoff either trailed Handel or led by one or two points. But polls underrated Ossoff’s first-round vote total. The final pre-primary surveys put Ossoff’s runoff vote projection at 42 percent; he outperformed that and came within a few thousand votes of outright victory. The final pre-election poll, conducted by Opinion Savvy, found Ossoff and fringe Democrats getting 42.1 percent of the total district vote; on Election Day, the party’s candidates won 49 percent of the vote.