Tuesday will be an interesting day in the political world, as the much-anticipated special election will be held in the sixth congressional district of Georgia between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel to replace Tom Price, who vacated his seat to serve as President Trump's Health and Human Services secretary. The special election could very well be an indicator of what the 2018 midterm elections will look like, which is why the race has received so much attention and will be thoroughly dissected when the results are in.
Here are seven things you need to know about Tuesday's special election in Georgia.
1. It's a close race. The RealClearPolitics polling averages has Ossoff with a razor-thin 0.2 point lead over Handel, with the most recent poll showing Handel with a two-point lead over Ossoff. The race is clearly a toss-up; Nate Silver explains at FiveThirtyEight that it's difficult to predict an outcome in this race since FiveThirtyEight's usual formula to extrapolate a victory would give Handel a slim victory. That's because the formula would indicate that the district "is 9.5 points more Republican than the country as a whole," slightly outpacing the seven-point lead Democrats held in the generic congressional ballot. However, the Democrats' performance in recent special elections would give an edge to Ossoff.
Regardless of who wins, it's going to be a close race until the very end.
2. It is the most expensive congressional special election ever. Over $50 million has been spent in the election, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
An election-eve analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows that roughly $42 million has been spent or reserved for TV and radio ads in the race — including about $27 million since the first-round of voting in April winnowed the field in Tuesday’s vote to Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.
That doesn’t include the other cash spent by the campaigns and the super PACs and outside groups supporting them for other trappings of the campaigns, including direct-mail, staff payroll, consulting fees and digital ads.
The analysis shows Ossoff laid out $14.2 million on ad time and spent at least another $8 million on other costs. Handel spent $2.5 million on TV, radio and cable spots and had at least $1 million in other expenses.
The Journal-Constitution adds that when combining campaign spending with spending from other organizations, Ossoff has spent $2 million more than Handel.
3. Early voting turnout is very high. Over 140,000 people have voted thus far, easily surpassing the early voter turnout of 57,000 in the April primary and will likely pass the 192,000 total voter turnout as well.
4. Fifteen percent of Republicans support Ossoff as a means of protesting against Trump. This is according to Erick Erickson, who is very well-versed in Georgia politics. The significance of this is that in April, the combination of Republican and Democrat votes added up to a slight 51% to 49% edge toward the GOP. In order for Handel to win, she will need as much of that GOP vote as possible; 15% of it going to Ossoff may be hard for her to overcome.
5. Some members of the GOP are hoping that James Hodgkinson's attempted murder of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) will put Handel over the finish line. The Washington Post quoted the Republican Party chairman of George's 11th congressional district, Brad Carver, declaring that "the shooting is going to win this election for us."
"Moderates and independents in this district are tired of left-wing extremism," Carver said. "I get that there's extremists on both sides, but we are not seeing them. We're seeing absolute resistance to everything this president does. Moderates and independents out there want to give him a chance."
Additionally, a super PAC supporting the House GOP leadership tied Ossoff to Kathy Griffin's disgusting image of holding a bloody severed head of Trump, citing Griffin's support for Ossoff. Ossoff has denounced Griffin's stunt. The Daily Wire's Frank Camp has more on this here.
The Post did note that a number of voters in the district "expressed alarm about the growing toxicity of America’s political culture," especially after a suspicious substance was sent to Handel's home. It will be interesting how the expressed concern of political discourse will affect Tuesday's election.
6. Ossoff has had to run as a moderate. Per RealClearPolitics:
Ossoff's television ads mostly frame him as a centrist who criticizes both parties in Washington for "wasteful spending" and promises to focus on developing metro Atlanta's economy. He's also taken aim at Handel as a "career politician" and an executive for the Susan G. Komen Foundation when the organization threatened to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, a health care and abortion provider.
Ossoff's moderate positioning is the only way he can win the race, which Erickson notes puts the Democrats and Ossoff in a bind: the so-called Resistance would be rather displeased if Ossoff doesn't vote in lockstep with the far-left agenda, thus creating the possibility of a future primary challenge against Ossoff. However, if Ossoff votes in favor of the The Resistance's agenda, then potential re-election races become more difficult for him.
7. Both sides should be concerned about the election. Erickson points out that the Republicans should be worried that the election is close in a traditional Republican district; if Handel loses then it's a major warning sign that the House majority in 2018 could be in jeopardy. For the Democrats, they need to be concerned that despite Ossoff's massive spending and having an advantage with the media, Hollywood and 15% of GOP members in the district supporting him to protest Trump, the race is still close and he's had to position himself as a moderate.
Will the Republicans be able to hang on to the seat, or will the Democrats get their first electoral victory in the Trump era?