Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Georgia’s 6th District: Ossoff Has a Chance to Win Outright, But A Runoff More Likely

We put this chart together three weeks ago to help understand the five special elections in the House in 2017 that were necessitated by political appointments.  Four of them were by Trump of cabinet members, and the other was in California and involved a Democrat representative landing that state’s Attorney General position.  Many eyes are focused on these races as providing insights into the state of the Trump presidency (and this is a legitimate thought) and also as a predictor of the 2018 midterms (this far less so).

Primary     Run-off
General Election
Nov. 2016 Outcome
Trump vs   Clinton
Pompeo (R)
Apr 11
61/30  R+31
60/33  R+27
Zinke (R)
May 25
56/41  R+15
56/36  R+20
Bacerra (D)
Apr 4
Jun 6
77/23 D+100 (D v D)
84/11  D+73
Price (R)
Apr 18
Jun 20
62/38  R+23
48/47  R+1
Mulvaney (R)
May 2
May 16
Jun 20
59/39  R+20
57/39  R+18

Since then the GOP received an enormous scare in Kansas’ 4th District, where they won the election on April 11th by a mere 7 points, just six months after Mike Pompeo won the same seat by +31 and Donald Trump the same district by +27.

Then California 34th went as predicted, with two Democrats taking the top two slots and Democrats winning 91% of the vote.  Thus it is a foregone conclusion that the Dems will hold this seat in the June runoff.

This brings is to today’s election, the primary race for Georgia’s 6th District.  This one is commanding national attention as Jon Ossoff, a Democratic newbie, leads the field of 18 and has a chance to win the seat outright if he can achieve more than 50% of the vote.  This would flip Tom Price’s seat, long a GOP stronghold, to the Dems, and be used by the Dems as evidence that Trump is losing support and could lose the House in 2018.

The main reason for the Democrat’s optimism is Hillary Clinton’s strong showing in the district in 2016 relative to that of Barack Obama in 2012 and 2008.  As the chart shows, she lost to Trump by only a single point, 48/47.  Obama, on the other hand, was defeated by 18 points by John McCain in 2008 and 23 points by Mitt Romney in 2012.  And even though Tom Price won again in November 2016 by a comfortable margin (+23), that margin was slightly tighter this go-round than his wins in 2014 (+32) and 2012 (+29).  All of this, plus the rather disastrous start to the Trump administration and Price’s own failure as a key player in the “replace and repeal Obamacare” debacle, have led to Dem optimism that they can win here.

Georgia’s 6th is comprised primarily of northern Atlanta suburbs, which have higher median incomes than the state as a whole as well as greater educational attainment.  It also has a reasonably significant minority population, roughly 25%.  Ossoff has raised a whopping total of more than $8 million through the end of March, while the GOP candidates combined raised less than a million.  National volunteers have poured in to help Ossoff, while dialers from all corners (including us) are helping to get out the vote.

There have been ten polls since mid-March, and all tell a similar story.  Ossoff has consistently polled in the low 40’s and no other candidate is close.  But the GOP candidates combined are in the mid-40’s and lead him.  There seems to be modest momentum in Ossoff’s favor, as the most recent poll has him at 45%, but that, of course, could be noise.

The X Factor is, of course, turnout.  Special elections typically feature very low turnouts but the significance of this race, which has fueled the money and the effort, make it hard to know.  The GOP has countered the Dems' effort but probably not as effectively.  The fact that they do not have a single candidate who has broken through is a minus.

BTRTN views this as a near 50/50 proposition in all ways.  We believe Ossoff will easily win tonight, and come very close to the magic 50% level but will most likely fall short.  We would peg the odds of him winning the seat outright tonight at roughly 45%.

You can watch the tabulations tonight, after the polls close at 7 PM EST, here:http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/files/elections/2017/by_county/GA_US_House_0418.html?SITE=ILLIN&SECTION=POLITICS

If Ossoff wins the seat either tonight or in June, it will be a major story.  Certainly it will have to reflect some disenchantment with Trump, but probably says little about the 2018 midterms.  There is just too much time between now and then to consider it a harbinger.  But it will certainly be a wake-up call for Trump, if he needs yet another one.

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