When the Georgia Democrat failed to win outright in a special House election back in April, plenty of pundits were skeptical he could win the resulting runoff against Republican Karen Handel in the historically conservative Sixth Congressional District. Anticipating April’s result, Salon declared, “Jon Ossoff is doomed: Democrats’ hopes in Georgia are fading, as a runoff election looms.” (It was “a runoff election he’ll surely lose,” according to the subheadline.) Allowing a bit more wiggle room, other outlets simply framed the June 20 contest as an “uphill battle” for Democrats.
But even then, national political analysts were calling the race a tossup. Now, with less than two weeks to go, Ossoff has all the momentum on his side. The polling average shows him ahead by at least a couple of points, and on Friday an Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey showed him ahead by seven. That followed a truly mind-boggling debate gaffe by Handel on Tuesday night when she was asked about raising the minimum wage. “This is an example of the fundamental difference between a liberal and a conservative,” Handel said. “I do not support a livable wage.”
Part of Ossoff’s strategy has been to galvanize support from the anti-Trump resistance across the country while also sometimes sounding like a Republican; in a series of campaign ads, he campaigns against wasteful government spending. His pragmatist positioning clearly infuriates Handel, who, in an interview with The Weekly Standard, called Ossoff’s pitch to voters “misleading,” “deceiving,” and “deceitful.”
And yet, his outreach is working. “He’s capturing about 13 percent of Republican voters and 50 percent of independents—a crucial voting bloc that leans to the right in the state,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Meanwhile, just three percent of Democrats support Handel. Substantively, Ossoff isn’t out of step with the party mainstream, and Democrats don’t seem particularly troubled by his shrewd strategy. Their enthusiasm should only grow as his chances of winning increase with each passing day.