USA Today correspondent Heidi Przybyla continued the liberal spin about the Georgia congressional special election into Friday’s print edition, still emphasizing that the non-win by Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff represented doom for Republicans in the form of losing the House in the 2018 midterms.
Right from the get-go with her headline “Georgia election result makes clear that U.S. House is in play in 2018,” one immediately got the inclination of where Przybyla was going.
“A special election this week in Georgia that turned into a referendum on President Trump has made one thing clear: the U.S. House is in play in 2018 — something that, until recently, was considered highly unlikely,” she began.
Przybyla emphasized that while Ossoff “fell just shy of cracking the 50% threshold needed to win the seat outright, his Tuesday showing is a dramatic swing from just a few months ago, when Republican Tom Price won the seat by a comfortable 24-point margin.”
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Pause here for a second. As per the case with members of Congress who have been in office any significant period of time without any pitfalls, the opposing party is leery of sinking any significant amount of money or top-name candidate into defeating someone like Price.
In contrast, seats that open up after having been occupied for a significant period of time by someone almost always attracts not just a slew of candidates, but millions of dollars spent as the opposition party holds out hope they can claim it.
Furthermore, Price spent almost $2.5 million to hold his seat in 2016 against a mysterious, unknown person by the name of Rodney Stooksbury. How much did Stooksbury spend? Zero. Not one dollar. Not one penny. Nothing.
Nonetheless, Przybyla’s spin continued:
The race now goes to a June 20 runoff with Republican Karen Handel, and nonpartisan political experts agree it’s too close to call for a seat that’s been held by Republicans, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, for nearly 40 years.
The fact that Ossoff even has a chance of winning explains why there’s any doubt over continued Republican control of the House. “The fact that it’s so close suggests the House is in play,” said David Wasserman, House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “Trump’s election is the best thing that’s happened to Democrats chances of retaking the House,” he said.
Even with Trump’s narrow victory over Hillary Clinton last fall, Democrats were never supposed to have a chance at retaking the House because Republicans enjoy such a strong advantage due to GOP-led redistricting. According to Cook Political estimates, Republicans only need to win 32% of swing districts while Democrats need 69% to win control.
Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to take control of the House, which they lost during President Obama’s first midterm election in 2010. There are 71 districts that are more favorable to Democrats than the suburban Atlanta district where Ossoff and Handel are in a heated race, according to the Cook partisan voter index. Further, there are currently 23 Republicans representing districts that Democratic presidential candidate Clinton won in 2016[.]
Again, time-out. Just as there are 23 Republicans in districts won by Hillary Clinton, there are 12 Democrats representing districts won by Trump, ranging from just under a point to almost 31 percent. Yes, there are a number of folks in Congress that Cook Political Report dubbed “Clinton Republicans,” but there’s a dozen that were “Trump Democrats.”
Therefore, any pick-ups for Democrats in their “Clinton Republican” category could be offset by as many as 12 losses in “Trump Democrat” districts.
Even further, the same site (Cook Political Report) that Przybyla repeatedly cited pointed out in a 2017 report that Georgia’s sixth congressional district is the eighth-fastest-district that’s moving towards Democrats and the third highest in seats currently in GOP hands.
Going back to Przybyla, she continued with a brief nod to “skeptics” well past the halfway mark of her post:
The negative climate for vulnerable Republicans could intensify over the next 18 months, depending on public sentiment over Trump’s potential corporate conflicts of interest, investigations into his ties to Russia and whether he’s able to win approval of any of his domestic policy goals like tax reform. In his first 100 days, there have been no major legislative accomplishments and Republicans are preparing to reintroduce an Obamacare replacement, with the previous one standing at 17% approval.
There are plenty of skeptics. "You will have to count me among the 'doubting Thomases,'" said Rhodes Cook, a nonpartisan analyst for the University of Virginia's "Crystal Ball." The effects of gerrymandering and a relatively small playing field next year, combined with a recent record of GOP House dominance, will make it really difficult for Democrats to steal seats away, he said. "Yes, the Democrats could win the House of Representatives. But in my mind, the burden of proof is on them," said Cook.
Still, in the context of 2018, the numbers betray the fact that these 23 potentially vulnerable seats where Clinton won and Democrats have their best chances could be difficult to pry from Republican hands. That's because many are occupied by incumbents who won by sizable margins. According to the National Republican Congressional Committee, in those 23 districts, the Republican incumbents won in 2016, on average, with a comfortable 12-percentage-point margin.
Further, Democrats won’t be able to pump $8 million into each of these races, as they did with Ossoff in Georgia. It’s also unclear whether infighting during the primary season will stunt Democrats in the same way that the Tea Party initially hurt moderate Senate Republican candidates more capable of winning a general election.
Going forward, the question from Przybyla is what’s she going to say if Republican candidate Karen Handel wins by any margin in June? Will she still try to convince readers that a loss was actually a win for Democrats? If she does, it would be difficult for her readers to believe that.