Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff’s failure to clinch victory outright in Georgia’s traditionally red 6th Congressional District Tuesday evening sparked a scramble for excuses from liberals and the media — many who had predicted Ossoff’s sure victory would be a sign voters were rejecting the Trump agenda.
Ossoff carried the substantial advantage of unified party support in a crowded field of 18 candidates vying for the House seat vacated by now-HHS Secretary Tom Price. Hollywood interest and unified Democratic Party backing netted the 30-year-old Ossoff more than $8.3 million in campaign cash. The last publicly available reports had top-GOP-finisher Karen Handel having raised just $470,000.
“As we recall from the presidential election, just running anti-Trump when you don’t have a personality to project or a message, that’s [not] really going to capture people’s imagination.”
“Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG ‘R’ win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!” President Donald Trump tweeted after the results rolled in. “Dems failed in Kansas and are now failing in Georgia. Great job Karen Handel! It is now Hollywood vs. Georgia on June 20th.”
Democrats — led by newly elected Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez — were quick to offer excuses for Ossoff's failure to turn the district blue.
Perez insisted the Georgia 6th was a "heavily gerrymandered" district that afforded Republicans an unfair advantage, despite Democratic hype around Ossoff's chances of flipping the decidedly condensed-looking district.
"You look at this district — the heavily gerrymandered district," Perez said Wednesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "Tom Price won by 23 points five months ago, and here you have … just a few weeks ago, they were saying a Democrat can't get over 42 percent, 43 percent of the vote. [Ossoff] got 48 percent. The other three Democrats got roughly a point. So, he's already at 49 percent of the vote. And there's a heck of a lot of energy out there."
Perez dubiously claimed on CNN's "New Day" that Ossoff was "outspent 2-to-1," saying, "[The Republicans] hit the panic button big-time."
But Ossoff far outraised his GOP rivals, netting roughly $9 million dollars from liberal donors nationwide. Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, by comparison, raised $463,000, according to April 6 filings. No single GOP competitor raised $1 million.
"New Day" co-host Chris Cuomo called Perez out on his claim, noting that Ossoff outspent all of his competitors in a "one against 18" race.
"You guys put a lot of money in this race," Cuomo said, to which Perez replied, "The Democrat Party, we have to walk and chew gum and that's exactly what we're doing."
Ossoff will now face Handel in the June 20 special election.
Perez argued that Ossoff could beat Handel simply because Handel supports the repealing and replacing of Obamacare while Ossoff does not.
"Well, we have a run-off on June the 20th and our candidate has roughly 48 percent to 49 percent of the vote going into the run-off," Perez told MSNBC. "And we have still votes out there that are moderates because they're going to see this. Karen Handel is far to the right. She is someone who said, 'I don't support the Affordable Care Act.'"
"When that vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act comes up, she's on the side of the Tea Party," Perez noted. "And you know, I think 17 percent of the American public supports the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. She has some explaining to do on that."
Other Democrats and pundits simply tried to declare Ossoff's failure to win outright a version of victory.
Ossoff himself proclaimed Tuesday's results "a victory for the ages" because the Party has "survived the odds" and "shattered expectations."
USA Today senior political reporter Heidi Przybyla told the "Morning Joe" panel that Ossoff's 48 percent result constituted "another moral victory, just like in Kansas last week."
The Democrats lost the Kansas special election, too, though by a single-digit margin.
"To me, what's amazing is that we continue to see this level shift across the country, a 20-point swing, that puts about 123 Republican seats potentially in play," liberal Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas told CNN. "At that point, very little is off the map, and getting the 24 seats we need to take back the House is suddenly a real possibility, GOP gerrymander or not."
Moulitsas' enthusiasm spilled over even further when he added, "It also potentially puts the Senate in play, while certainly protecting our endangered red-state incumbents. All of this, and we're still in Trump's supposed 'honeymoon' period."
Jim Dean, leader of the liberal group Democracy for America, told NBC that "Jon Ossoff's sound victory tonight is a testament to the growing strength of a nationwide, grassroots movement that's looking for leaders ready to stand up to the Republicans empowering Donald Trump's hate-fueled agenda."
Eugene Robinson, a liberal columnist at The Washington Post, made the claim Ossoff won simply because the Democratic Party didn't lose — yet.
"Do step back though — this is a district that the Republican would be expected to win by 20 points," Robinson told the "Morning Joe" panel. "If you add Ossoff's votes plus the other couple of Democrats, they came one percentage point short."
But even Mika Brzezinski, the show's liberal co-host, didn't agree with Robinson's line of thinking.
"[Ossoff] didn't win outright and he may not win the runoff," Brzezinski said. "But Democrats in Georgia … think they just made a big statement about President Trump."
"No, they did not," host Joe Scarborough chimed in.
Even Glenn Thrush, the former senior staff writer at Politico who found himself in hot water when a WikiLeaks dump in October revealed that he ran an article by Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta prior to publishing, thought the Georgia results were lackluster. Thrush is now a political correspondent for The New York Times.
"What is interesting is my inbox this morning has been flooded by Democrats sort of saying Ossoff was a terrible candidate," Thrush told the "Morning Joe" panel, admitting that Ossoff "was not electric."
"He was more static electric. But I think in general that is an issue," Thrush warned. "Look, the other thing is, look how deep the bench was down there. There were a lot of people who wanted that seat. I think the larger issue we're dealing with here right now — the Democrats don't have a lot of candidates, not just in Georgia but around the country in general."
"There's not a lot of people to kind of catch this Trump wave," Thrush continued. "As we recall from the presidential election, just running anti-Trump when you don't have a personality to project or a message, that's [not] really going to capture people's imagination."