Hours after the outcome became clear Tuesday night in the internationally-watched special U.S. House race in Georgia’s Sixth District, the national media was scrambling to find an explanation for the relatively easy win (53-to-47 percent) of Republican Karen Handel.
One lesson seems obvious from the suburban Atlanta district: Emphasizing a strong conservative agenda on both economic and cultural issues is crucial to rallying the Republican base. Former Georgia Secretary of State Handel did just that to defeat Democrat and former congressional staffer Jon Ossoff.
Handel, who had previously lost primary bids for governor and U.S. senator, signed the anti-tax pledge of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). Ossoff refused to sign.
In addition, Handel vowed to repeal Obamacare and replace it with the American Health Care Act favored by President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Ossoff ran as a backer of Obamacare.
But several sources in the Peach State who spoke to Newsmax agreed that the issue of Planned Parenthood and whether it should receive tax dollars played a pivotal role in Handel's win.
Where Ossoff supported Planned Parenthood funding and received an estimated $1 million from the controversial organization, Handel campaigned as an opponent of Planned Parenthood. She also had a particular history with the controversial organization: In 2012, she resigned in protest as a vice president of the Susan G. Komen cancer foundation after it reversed a decision to end its grants to Planned Parenthood.
"Planned Parenthood was the principal issue," former Georgia Rep. John Linder, a past chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Newsmax, "She handled if deftly. Ossoff said that she stopped Susan G Komen contributions to Planned Parenthood for 'lifesaving breast cancer screening.' She responded that Planned Parenthood doesn't even own a mammogram."
Linder added that "this fed into a theme that Ossoff has been lying since the beginning of the race. He didn’t have a 'top secret' clearance, as he claimed, Planned Parenthood doesn't do mammograms and he doesn't live 'just outside the district,' but quite a way out."
Linder's view was strongly seconded by Phil Kent, CEO of Insider Advantage and former editor of the Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle.
"Planned Parenthood was a big issue in the race, and the pro-lifers came out heavily for Karen Handel in response to her record of fighting Planned Parenthood," he told us, "Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed estimated most of its 107,000 identified 'faith voters' in the district turned out for Handel."
Although she agreed with the president on most issues, Handel rarely mentioned his name on the campaign trail. Commenting on a SurveyUSA poll in late May showing the Republican trailing Ossoff by a margin of 51-to-42 percent districtwide, veteran Georgia GOP consultant Matt Towery complained that "Karen's big mistake was to avoid Trump in her campaign ads. Since this is a special election, she needs to draw voters out to the polls. Defending Trump and saving his agenda by not letting the House lose Republicans is what they need to push their voters out."
She did. On the Monday before the voting, the Handel campaign blasted out a Monday morning tweet from the president that "The Dems want to stop tax cuts, good healthcare, and border security……Vote now for Karen H."
We've been saying it for weeks and now President Trump agrees," went an accompanying message from the Handel campaign, "Everything comes down tomorrow to Georgia's special election."
Commenting on the national and international attention that was focused on Georgia 6, former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told us: "Tonight's victory brought a sigh of relief to national Republicans — for now. Even though Ms. Handel tried to create some distance between her campaign and the president at times, in the end they needed each other for the win — perhaps an important lesson to unpack for Republicans and their base going into 2018."
As for Democrats, Steele said, "They wanted to make this election a referendum on President Trump and it was — at least in Georgia — and Trump won. But the bigger take away is this race affirms the Republican Party is the Party of Trump, and Capitol Hill now has to figure out how to work with that."
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