2017 Campaign

Pelosi Defends Her Leadership

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) defended her leadership “amid suggestions from some Democrats that it may be time for her to step aside after more than a decade leading the caucus,” The Hill reports.

“Some Democrats had expressed frustration since the party fell short of picking up a seat in Tuesday’s special election in Georgia. A handful even went as far as suggesting Democrats couldn’t win back the House next year with Pelosi still as their leader.”

But Pelosi brushed the criticism aside: “I thrive on competition and I welcome the discussion. But I am honored by the support.”

Democrats Must Stop Chasing Romney Voters

David Atkins: “The lesson of the special elections around the country is clear: Democratic House candidates can dramatically outperform Clinton in deep red rural areas by running ideological, populist campaigns rooted in progressive areas. Poorer working class voters who pulled the lever for Trump can be swayed back to the left in surprisingly large numbers—perhaps not enough to win in places like Kansas, Montana and South Carolina, but certainly in other more welcoming climes. Nor is there a need to subvert Democratic principles of social justice in order to accomplish this: none of the Democrats who overperformed Clinton’s numbers in these districts curried favor with bigots in order to accomplish it.”

“But candidates like Clinton and Ossoff who try to run inoffensive and anti-ideological campaigns in an attempt to win over supposedly sensible, wealthier, bourgeois suburban David-Brooks-reading Republican Romney voters will find that they lose by surprisingly wide margins. There is no Democrat so seemingly non-partisan that Romney Republicans will be tempted to cross the aisle in enough numbers to make a difference.”

Why Republicans Have Won the Special Elections

Jonathan Chait: “It’s certainly true that Jon Ossoff’s underperformance of the polls (he was nearly tied in the polling average, and is losing by almost 4 points) should incrementally adjust one’s view of the Democrats’ prospects. But the reason the party has lost all four special elections is glaringly simple. It is not some deep and fatal malady afflicting its messaging, platform, consultants, or ad spending allocation methods. Republicans have won the special elections because they’ve all been held in heavily Republican districts.”

“The special elections exist because Donald Trump appointed Republicans in Congress to his administration, carefully selecting ones whose vacancy would not give Democrats a potential opening. It feels like Democrats somehow can’t win, but that is entirely because every contest has been held on heavily Republican turf.”

Pelosi Was a Huge Drag on Ossoff

First Read: “While national Republicans threw the kitchen sink at Ossoff, perhaps their most potent — and consistent — attack was linking him to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Democrats have to admit they have a Pelosi problem, especially in red states and districts. Yes, she brings money and legislative savvy to the party. But if Democratic candidates like Ossoff are going to campaign on change, Republicans can quickly undercut that message by simply showing Pelosi. It’s a legitimate question Democrats must ask themselves: Can they win back the House with Pelosi promising to stay in power?”

James Hohmann: “Republican operatives say that 98 percent of voters in the 6th District already had an impression of Pelosi when they conducted their first internal poll, and she was 35 points underwater. When presented with the choice of whether they wanted a representative who would work with Paul Ryan or Pelosi, six in 10 picked the Speaker and three in 10 picked the minority leader.”

Why Handel’s Win Isn’t a Disaster for Democrats

David Wasserman: “Although it’s true Democrats have agonizingly yet to capture a red district, they have outperformed their ‘generic’ share of the vote significantly in every contest. Measured against the Cook Political Report‘s Partisan Voter Index (PVI), Democrats have outperformed the partisan lean of their districts by an average of eight points in the past five elections.”

“If Democrats were to outperform their ‘generic’ share by eight points across the board in November 2018, they would pick up 80 seats. Of course, that won’t happen because Republican incumbents will be tougher to dislodge than special election nominees. But these results fit a pattern that should still worry GOP incumbents everywhere, regardless of Trump’s national approval rating and the outcome of the healthcare debate in Congress.”

Nate Cohn: “If Democrats keep running ahead of expectations across those plausibly competitive Republican-held seats, many seats will ultimately fall their way. But they will certainly lose more than they win. The question is whether they win enough, and no special election offers the answer to that.”

Georgia Race Proves That Candidates Matter

James Hohmann: “Democrats pinned their hopes on a 30-year-old who had never run for office before and didn’t even live in the district. Ossoff became more dynamic on the stump as the race dragged on, but his lack of a record made it easy to caricature him. He was a vessel through which Democrats channeled their hopes, but he lacked charisma.”

“Handel, 55, has been a fixture of local politics for 15 years. She chaired the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, served as Georgia secretary of state and narrowly lost GOP primaries to become governor in 2010 and then senator in 2014. She had the baggage that comes with being a career politician, but her deep roots and relationships certainly helped far more than they hurt. She was a known commodity who came into the race with high name identification.”

After $50 Million It Wasn’t Even That Close

Playbook: “Karen Handel quite easily beat Jon Ossoff in Georgia. House Republicans are now 4-0 in contested special elections since Donald Trump won the presidency. That means Democrats have failed — despite millions of dollars in spending — to win a single race with a president who has a record low approval rating. Democrats are even further from the majority than they thought.”

“Let’s be clear: something ain’t working for Democrats, party insiders privately tell us. The Ossoff race galvanized national donors and activists in a way that led many to believe House Democrats were en route to wresting control of the chamber from Republicans. That’s not how they feel this morning.”

“Caveat: this is a Republican seat. Being close is nice. But after six years in the minority, that’s about all it is.”

Politico: What we’ve learned from the 2017 special elections.

Handel Wins Special Election In Georgia

The New York Times projection points to a narrow win for Karen Handel over Jon Ossoff (D).

CNN also projects Handel will win.

David Wasserman: “Among the questions I can already hear Democrats asking tomorrow: Why didn’t Ossoff take the fight to Trump in his ads? And why didn’t he take a sledgehammer to the AHCA? Why did he run such a bland campaign? But I think a better explanation might be: After over $30 million in pro-Ossoff/anti-Handel ads, there is such a thing as Ossoff fatigue.”

For members: How to Read Tonight’s Special Election Results

Dead Heat In Georgia

The final WSB-TV poll in Georgia’s 6th congressional district finds Jon Ossoff (D) and Karen Handel (R) deadlocked at 49% each.

Key finding: “The poll is the first taken since last week’s ambush of Republican lawmakers at a baseball practice and the threatening letters sent to Handel and several of her neighbors. The poll showed a majority of voters who had yet to cast their ballots said the recent shootings had no effect on their decision. About one-third of election-day voters said the attack would make them ‘more likely’ to cast their ballots, and most of those were Republican.”

The RealClearPolitics polling average shows Handel leading by just .2%.

No Politics Is Local In 2017

Rick Klein: “The insane money and outsized attention are just two factors that make the race for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District a less-than-ideal test case; this game won’t be played 50 or 60 times next November. And Democrat Jon Ossoff has resisted resistance-themed messaging, though he has benefited greatly from anti-Trump sentiments that have been channeled into Georgia. But rather than prescriptions for 2018, which are dubious in any special election, this race matters for 2017.”

“President Trump’s beleaguered agenda needs to show it can win on the ballot. Democrats needs to demonstrate that they can convince chunks of Trump voters that they offer a better path, and that energy can equal votes. Interestingly, both sides embraced the national implications of Ossoff-Handel in the closing days of the race. That will change Wednesday. (Cue stories about bad campaigning and inexplicable messaging despite pleas of national operatives.) But the message will have been delivered.”