The Note: Dem win in Georgia would be Trump’s first big loss

House seats are at stake today in Georgia and South Carolina

ByPaola Chavez
June 20, 2017, 6:43 AM


THE TAKE with ABC News’ Rick Klein

No politics is local in 2017. So it is that the Atlanta suburbs will tell us more than any other electoral contest in the Trump era to date, in the most expensive House race in U.S. history. (We know the president likes superlatives, and one thing we will learn today is whether he ends up liking that one.) The insane money and outsized attention are just two factors that make the race for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District a less-than-ideal test case; this game won’t be played 50 or 60 times next November. And Democrat Jon Ossoff has resisted resistance-themed messaging, though he has benefited greatly from anti-Trump sentiments that have been channeled into Georgia. But rather than prescriptions for 2018, which are dubious in any special election, this race matters for 2017. President Trump’s beleaguered agenda needs to show it can win on the ballot. Democrats need to demonstrate that they can convince chunks of Trump voters that they offer a better path, and that energy can equal votes. Interestingly, both sides embraced the national implications of Ossoff-Handel in the closing days of the race. That will change Wednesday. (Cue stories about bad campaigning and inexplicable messaging despite pleas of national operatives.) But the message will have been delivered.


Everything we know about the Georgia 6 special election, from the polls, to the first-round results, to the results of special elections in other districts, to the shifting politics of Georgia 6, suggests that the race ought to be close. So if the race ends in a photo finish, with either Jon Ossoff or Karen Handel edging out the win by a couple of percentage points, it won’t necessarily be the “game-changer” that it’s billed to be in terms of helping us to figure out what will happen in 2018. A blowout win by either candidate would be a bigger deal. However, Republicans have a lot of decisions to make in terms of how to proceed with their unpopular health care bill and an unpopular President Trump. A loss in Georgia 6 wouldn’t necessarily be catastrophic unto itself, but it would be a warning sign that they’d have a lot of trouble ignoring, and it might lead to members in competitive districts starting to think about how to save their own jobs. So whatever the outcome, I’ll be watching how Republicans react as much as the results themselves.


The Georgia special election is not just a test case for Democrats; it is a practice round for Republicans too. In that vein, there is a growing campaign strategy afoot to paint the left as militant, and maybe even violent. Karen Handel did condemn an ad from a fringe super PAC tying her opponent to the congressional baseball practice shooting. But the broader theme -- that left-wing activists are dangerous or out of control -- is present in dozens of ads supporting her, and volunteers for her GOP campaign are quick to allude to it too. According to The Washington Post, a local county GOP chair said Saturday that the congressional shooting could help Handel win, “because moderates and independents in this district are tired of left-wing extremism.” Speaking with ABC News, Greg Williams, a county GOP executive, brought up the fact that the shooter last week had volunteered for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, and added, "some of these ‘alt-left’ supporters are certainly doing damage to the Democratic brand.” Some of the threats are of legitimate concern. Last week, a threatening letter and suspicious package came to Handel’s home, and federal authorities had to check it out. Talk of Julius Caesar and Kathy Griffin is everywhere among Republicans in Georgia, with such episodes used to argue that the left is pushing the line toward physical threats, ABC News’ MaryAlice Parks notes.


President Trump meets with national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Vice President Mike Pence and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine.

No White House Daily Press Brief.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s big speech on tax overhaul.

NEED TO READ with ABC News’ Adam Kelsey

Flynn failed to report foreign trip to broker US-Russia nuclear deal, House Democrats say. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn made an unreported trip to the Middle East in 2015 to work on a U.S.-Russian venture in Saudi Arabia before he joined the Trump campaign, possibly having multiple contacts with Saudi officials that he failed to disclose when seeking renewal of his security clearances, according to Democrats who are seeking detailed records of Flynn’s travels. “Most troubling of all, we have no record of Gen. Flynn identifying on his security clearance renewal application – or during his interview with security clearance investigators – even a single foreign government he had contact with,” Reps. Elijah Cummings and Eliot Engel, the ranking members of the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, wrote in a letter published Monday.

Georgia Republican calls ad tying race to congressional shooting "disgusting." The Republican candidate in Tuesday's special election in Georgia called a super PAC advertisement featuring images of last week's shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice "disgusting," despite its message to vote for her. The ad, released by Principled PAC, a political action committee supporting Karen Handel, includes video of Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.

Health care bill deadline looms while Senators on both sides wait to see draft. While Senate Republican leaders say they plan to vote on their health care bill by the end of the month, their rank-and-file members still have deep divisions over major parts of the legislation -- and virtually none of them have seen a draft of the bill. "Sooner or later the leader has to pull it together," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told reporters.

Sean Spicer says Trump has confidence in Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein. Facing increased scrutiny over his role in the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein still has the confidence of President Trump, according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer. "The president has confidence of everyone who serves for him in this administration."

McCain says "we have no strategy" to end Afghan stalemate. Sen. John McCain criticized military strategy in Afghanistan on Monday, less than two weeks after three U.S. soldiers were killed in an attack for which the Taliban claimed responsibility. Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., cited the attack, in which an Afghan soldier turned his gun on the Americans, as rationale to "turn the situation around in Afghanistan."


@realDonaldTrump: KAREN HANDEL FOR CONGRESS. She will fight for lower taxes, great healthcare strong security-a hard worker who will never give up! VOTE TODAY

@realDonaldTrump: Democrat Jon Ossoff, who wants to raise your taxes to the highest level and is weak on crime and security, doesn't even live in district.

@maryaliceparks: Crisscrossing #GA06 district talking to supporters from all sides today Here Ossoff campaign volunteer on last push

@reidepstein: The DCCC is using SC-5 to test what anti-Trump messages work to drive black turnout to inform 2018 campaigns

@ABCPolitics: Karen Handel to @ABC: "A squirrel is going to get a pretty decent percentage of the vote if he has 30 million dollars behind him."

@VP: Karen & I are so saddened to hear this. We're praying for Otto's family tonight. A tragic example of North Korea's disregard for human life.

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events