The nation fixated on Georgia’s 6th Congressional district Tuesday night, because of the drama. Jon Ossoff could have captured New Gingrich’s seat, that’s been in Republican hands since Jimmy Carter was president. Between both parties $50 million was spent on that race, which seemed to stretch since January (because it did).
It was pointed out on the radio that the French had a presidential election, a runoff, and a legislative election–for their entire country–between the Georgia special election and the runoff for CD6. So the drama was there, the money was there, and all eyes were on that spectacle. But it’s not the bellwether.
It’s not the bellwether specifically because it’s a spectacle, and cannot be sustained. The Democrats loaded all their powder and shot their wad at Georgia, and knew they could lose. Ossoff’s best chance was to win in April with 50 percent plus 1, but he didn’t. So all Democrats could do is throw more (and more and more) money at the race, and Republicans responded in kind, although mostly from super PACs.
In the end, all the Democrats picked up was 10 points, which, for the money, severely underperformed. They also got a bright future for Ossoff, who is young and now well-known.
However, the more important race was South Carolina’s 5th Congressional district. Spending in that race totaled just over $2 million between Republican Ralph Norman and Democrat Archie Parnell. It wasn’t a spectacle, and it didn’t last for months. Fighting over Mick Mulvaney’s old seat wasn’t near as sexy as Atlanta, but it means a whole lot more.
You see, in November 2016, Mulvaney defeated Democrat Fran Person 59.2 percent to 38.7. President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in all counties in the district except Lee and Sumter, with a total of 60.8 to 39.2 percent overall.
But in the special election, Norman only beat Parnell by 3.2 percent–and 1.1 percent was voted for minor candidates. Spending under a million dollars, Parnell dug 9 points into Trump’s performance, and over Person’s in November. Yes, the GOP held the seat, but only barely. If Democrats had thrown even 2 or 3 percent of what they wasted in Georgia into South Carolina, they might have won the seat.
That’s important going forward, because regular Congressional races aren’t won by $50 million war chests and months of spectacle. Republicans should be girding up their loins for a tough battle in 2018, and Paul Ryan’s super PAC won’t be able to save every race.
All eyes were on Atlanta, but the real battle was in Rock Hill.