GOP sweating two special congressional elections
National Republicans are worried about two special congressional elections that became necessary when President Trump named the incumbents to his Cabinet.
In Georgia's 6th district, a vacancy was created when Trump named Rep. Tom Price to helm HHS. The district is nominally Republican, with Trump carrying the suburban Atlanta seat by a narrow margin over Hillary Clinton.
But real trouble might come today in Kansas 4 as the race to fill the seat left unoccupied by Rep. Mike Pompeo's being named CIA director. The seat was considered "safe GOP" by most election watchers, but several outlets, including Roll Call, have downgraded the race to "likely GOP."
The vagaries of predicting turnout in a special election plus the avalanche of anti-Trump coverage in the media make this race a crap shoot.
In Georgia, the difference may be Democrat money pouring in from out of state.
Former Capitol Hill aide Jon Ossoff, 30, is riding the Democratic energy stemming from Trump's election and raised an astounding $8.3 million in the first three months of the year – a staggering amount for a House candidate. For some perspective, former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland took an entire cycle to raise $10.7 million for his Ohio Senate race last year.
In the beginning, Ossoff looked like a long shot to make the June 20 runoff, but now he has the opportunity to win the race outright by winning a majority in the open primary later this month. Democrats are dominating early voting and, most importantly, could be changing the makeup of the electorate by turning out low propensity voters.
Most public and private polls have Ossoff in the low to mid-40s and leading the field by a wide margin. Based on his position, the difficulty of accurately predicting special election turnout, the polls' margins of error, and Ossoff's financial advantage, we are changing the Inside Elections/Roll Call rating from Lean Republican to Toss-Up.
If Ossoff wins, he will likely be spending more than $4,000 per vote. Turnout probably won't hit 25%, which means only those angry enough to make the effort will show up at the polls. That doesn't bode well for the GOP candidates, who will look to hold Ossoff below the 50% threshold.
Kansas looks a little better, but again, turnout will be the key.
The April 11 race between Republican state Treasurer Ron Estes and Democrat James Thompson, a lawyer, hasn't received a lot of attention, but the National Republican Congressional Committee recently began an ad campaign in a district Trump carried comfortably in November. National and local Democrats haven't put in much time or effort into the race, but there is some GOP concern about the enthusiasm gap and the quality of the Estes campaign.
We're changing the Inside Elections/Roll Call rating from Solid Republican to Likely Republican. You can read more analysis on the race in the April 7 issue of Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.
Considering all the factors, a split decision with the GOP taking Kansas and Dems taking Georgia would not be a bad outcome politically. But the perception that will take hold in the media, who will tout any negative result as a massive defeat for Trump, may be harder to overcome.