Georgia special election comes down to the wire with candidates in a virtual dead heat

Less than 48 hours before the polls open in Georgia's 6th congressional district for a special election to replace Rep. Tom Price who took a job as President Trump's HHS secretary, and the latest polls show a nearly dead even race.

The most expensive US House race in history, with about $40 million total spent by both candidates, is probably headed for a nail biting finish. The latest poll has Democrat John Ossoff leading Republican Karen Handel by 49.7% to 48% with 2.3% undecided.

A massive number of early voters points to a turnout on election day far exceeding the original guess of about 25%. And with some analysts seeing a surge of GOP voters in early ballots, the bigger turnout in this historic Republican district could favor Handel.

More people voted early in Georgia’s 6th congressional district for the House seat special election than the amount that did for the 2014 general election.

The unprecedented figures were tallied by Georgia’s Secretary of State, and they showed that 140,000 voters either submitted a ballot in-person or via mail prior to the June 16 cutoff. A few more more paper ballots may be returned before Tuesday’s election.

The data found that a majority of the 140,309 submitted ballots for the June 20 runoff between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel came from those 50-years and older, and most of the accepted ballots were submitted by voters who didn’t identify with a political party in the last primary they voted in.

Those are massive numbers for a special congressional election, and high voter turnout for Election Day on June 20 is expected.

Michael McDonald, who works for the U.S. Elections Project and is an associate professor at the University of Florida, has been charting the data in the district every day since early voting started May 30. McDonald’s charts showed that early voters got out to a hot start, but slowly tapered off as the weeks continued. Initially, the district was on pace to outnumber those that voted early in the 2016 general election. But, as expected, it slowed down a bit.

In comparison, there were just 56,459 early voters for the first round of voting in the special election that took place April 18. Those are big numbers in the district, and McDonald predictedthat when tallied June 20, early vote returns will be “less pro-Ossoff” than the first round of voting.

There will be predictable responses from both sides, regardless of who wins or loses. The winner will claim that the election was a referendum on President Trump while the loser will say that local factors were more important. Ossoff voters appear to be more passionate, with 91% of Democarts having an unfavorable opinion of the president and 78% of Republicans viewing Trump favorably. But there are a lot more Republicans in the district than Democrats and in the end, it will come down to which side has the better Get Out the Vote organization.

The safe money is on Handel. Rep. Price routinely ran up 20+ point victories in his races when he served in the House, although Donald Trump won the district by about 2%. 

And Ossoff is hardly running as a "progressive" Democrat even though that's how he's presenting himself to Hollywood leftists and other progressives when fundraising. He stresses his Trump hatred to the base, while his positions on other issues appeal to more moderate voters in the district. Handel, on the other hand, is running as a traditional southern conservative. 

Neither candidate excites voters on the stump. But at least Handel can claim the 6th as her home district. Ossoff will be ineligible to vote for himself due to his failure to meet the residency requirement. His carpetbagging status doesn't appear to have hurt him with Democrats, but the issue is there if Republicans want to use it as an excuse to vote against him.

Is this a case of  "hidden" support for Trump that the pollsters have failed to catch? I wouldn't bet against that, although I think Handel will win in the end anyway.



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