Despite acknowledging that the media’s chosen candidate in Georgia’s special congressional election on Tuesday, Democrat Jon Ossoff, had fallen short of the 50% threshold necessary to avoid a runoff, on Wednesday, NBC’s Today touted the failed liberal effort as a near win that would send an “ominous sign” to Republicans.
At the top of the show, co-host Savannah Guthrie desperately tried to spin the Democratic setback as a victory: “Near Miss? The Democratic candidate almost wins in a special congressional race in a seat Republicans have held since the 1970s....Democrat Jon Ossoff nearly pulling off the shocking upset.” Moments later, she hyped the race as “an early test of President Trump’s influence” and cheered that “Ossoff finished on top, falling just short of an outright victory.”
In the segment that followed, correspondent Kristen Welker grudgingly noted that “the White House is breathing a sigh of relief this morning” that “Ossoff didn’t get the 50% needed to win outright and avoid a runoff.” However, like Guthrie, she searched for the silver lining: “Still, Ossoff got awfully close, enough to have the political world asking, could Georgia become a referendum on President Trump?”
Declaring the election to be a “big night” for Ossoff, Welker hailed: “His strong showing reverberating all the way to the White House this morning.” She gleefully insisted there was trouble for the GOP: “And while it’s not the 50% needed to avoid a runoff, it’s enough to rattle Republicans....the results suggest some Republicans may be dissatisfied with the direction of their party.”
Following Welker’s report, Guthrie pressed South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham on the electoral outcome: “The Democrat gets the top votes in this special election. Does that mean it’s just a one-off? Do you look at this as an ominous sign of things to come for Republicans? How do you interpret it?”
ABC’s Good Morning America laughably framed the election as an “emotional victory” for Ossoff.
Here is a full transcript of Welker’s April 19 report:
7:02 AM ET
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Another story breaking overnight, results are in from Georgia's high-stakes special election to fill the House seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. This was considered an early test of President Trump’s influence. And take a look, the Democratic upstart John Ossoff finished on top, falling just short of an outright victory. There will now be a runoff between him and the second place finisher, Republican Karen Handel.
We’re going to get reaction from Senator Lindsey Graham in a moment on this and some other topics. But let's start our coverage with NBC’s Kristen Welker at the White House with more. Hi, Kristen, good morning.
KRISTEN WELKER: Hi, Savannah, good morning to you. On the one hand, the White House is breathing a sigh of relief this morning. Political newcomer and Democrat Jon Ossoff didn’t get the 50% needed to win outright and avoid a runoff. Still, Ossoff got awfully close, enough to have the political world asking, could Georgia become a referendum on President Trump?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Dem Comes Close But Falls Short In GA Special Election; Trump Takes Credit as Race Heads to Runoff]
A big night in Georgia for political upstart, Democrat Jon Ossoff. His strong showing reverberating all the way to the White House this morning.
JON OSSOFF: We have defied the odds. We have shattered expectations.
WELKER: Ossoff got more votes than any other candidate, Democrat or Republican, in an 18-way race. Significant, because this district is reliably red. And while it’s not the 50% needed to avoid a runoff, it’s enough to rattle Republicans. Still, GOP candidate Karen Handel, who had the most votes on the Republican side, struck a vote of confidence.
KAREN HANDEL: And you’re looking at the top Republican vote getter ya’ll.
WELKER: The seat that’s up for grabs was once held by Newt Gingrich. President Trump, who narrowly beat Hillary Clinton here, got personally involved in the race, tweeting overnight, “Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG “R” win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!” Trump also recorded a robocall against Ossoff before election day.
DONALD TRUMP: Only you can stop the super liberal Democrats.
WELKER: Still, the results suggest some Republicans may be dissatisfied with the direction of their party.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [VOTER]: He has brought, I think, the decorum of the presidency down so low that I cannot bring myself to support candidates like that anymore.
WELKER: Ossoff raised more than $8.3 million, much of it from out-of-state donations, an unprecedented number for such a little-known candidate. Some celebrities even lending their voices.
SAMUEL L. JACKSON: Hi, I'm Samuel L. Jackson. We have to channel the great vengeance and furious anger we have for this administration into votes at the ballot box.
WELKER: A race in a small district that could have big implications for the President and his party. The runoff between Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel will take place in June. When asked for further comment this morning, a White House official referred me back to the President’s tweet. It’s a race these officials will be watching very closely, as well as the President. Willie, Savannah, back to you.
GUTHRIE: Alright, Kristen, thanks so much.