As voters in Georgia’s Sixth District (suburban Atlanta) trek to the polls on Tuesday, no one on either side is betting on who will emerge as the successor to former Republican Rep. and present Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
That includes the White House. On Tuesday afternoon, Newsmax asked Press Secretary Sean Spicer if the president viewed the hard-fought special election between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff as a referendum on his administration.
The president, Spicer replied, "always hopes to grow his support in Congress" and had "done a lot to assist the Republican nominee."
As to how onetime National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Spicer viewed the race himself, he said: "I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it."
When all candidates appeared on the same ballot in the initial primary April 18, onetime Democratic congressional staffer and film producer Jon Ossoff topped the field with 48 percent of the vote compared to 19.8 percent for Republican former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel.
With Ossoff calling on voters to send Trump a message by electing him, a SurveyUSA poll among likely voters in late May showed him leading Handel by margin of 51 to 42 percent districtwide.
"And if Trump weren't president, you wouldn't be paying any attention to this race because Handel would win handily," Bill Shipp, longtime political editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, told Newsmax. Shipp noted that the district last went Democratic in 1976, two years before it was first won by Newt Gingrich, and that it has been firmly in Republican hands since.
Shipp also noted that while John McCain and Mitt Romney swept the Sixth District by margins of 3-to-2 in 2008 and '12, Trump carried it by less than 2 percent of the vote last year.
There are other opinions. Veteran GOP political consultant Matt Towery told us 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."
In a move that vindicated Towery’s argument, 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."
Along with the message from Trump, both Price and Secretary of Agriculture (and former Georgia Gov.) Sonny Perdue were in Atlanta over the weekend to rally support for Handel.
"It feels like the Republicans are coming home," former National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman and Georgia Rep. John Linder told us. "I'm told that 20,000 more Republicans voted early than did Democrats. I'd guess Handel by a very small margin."
Others say it could easily be Ossoff by a small margin. About all that can be said for sure about the most expensive special election in history ($30 million as of last week) is that it will be close and its outcome will draw national attention.
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