President Donald Trump and others in Washington "tend to overstate their influence" in races such as the one held in Georgia on Tuesday to fill Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price's former House seat, but the real influence comes down to the grassroots, Democrat Jon Ossoff said Wednesday.
"This comes down to grassroots intensity, the thousands of volunteers and organizers, so much of it led by women who have been pounding the pavement and knocking on doors for months here in Georgia," Ossoff told MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle. "It's that kind of grassroots momentum that will carry us to victory on June 20."
Ossoff needed 50 percent plus one of the vote to claim a clear win in the race to replace Price as the representative from Georgia's 6th Congressional District but fell just short, with 48.1 percent. Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, as the top Republican vote-winner, will face off against Ossoff in the June 20 runoff race.
Ossoff said that if anyone had heard a few months ago that a Democratic candidate would be able to build such a broad margin in a district that "hasn't been competitive in decades," they would have been surprised, and he's thrilled by the results.
The race, though, has attracted national attention, with many calling it a referendum on Trump, who has been tweeting, making robocalls and more to fight against Ossoff reaching the 50 percent threshold to win.
The president tweeted six times in the three days leading up to the election and has called the race "Hollywood versus Georgia," referring to the out of state money that has flooded in for Ossoff's campaign. He also called Handel Tuesday morning to congratulate her on her place in the runoff election.
Handel, appearing on Fox News' "Fox & Friends" Wednesday, pointed out that 95 percent of Ossoff's funds came from outside Georgia, and that he does not even live or vote in the district where he's seeking office.
"I grew up in this district," said Ossoff. "I grew up in this community, and I'm proud to say that more Georgians have made contributions to my campaign than any other candidate in the race's campaign."
He said he's looking forward to a "spirited debate' and to continuing to working with people trying to "get some fresh leadership into Washington ... I say, bring it on."
Ossoff, at 30, is a documentary filmmaker and former congressional aide and said Wednesday that he is confident of a June win, even though he did not win quite enough votes to win the race outright.
"A special election is a very compressed cycle, as you know," he said. "There's not a lot of time. We were able to build a very large grassroots organization from the bottom up with thousands of volunteers in just a few months. We're going to keep growing that grassroots energy and grassroots intensity."
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