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Democrats Lose Fourth Straight Special Election

Last night, in Georgia, Democrats thought they might have a winner in Jon Ossoff. The battle was uphill to begin with, in such a red district, but with President Trump’s approval numbers dropping, they thought maybe it was the opportunity to get a “W” on the board. Well, the results went “south” faster than Sherman marching on Savannah. The final totals gave Handel about a four percent margin of victory, a difference of almost 10,000 votes.

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As CNN reports, Democrats will be reeling from this one:

Democrats tried an inoffensive moderate message in Georgia. They ran a banjo-strumming populist in Montana. They called in the cavalry in South Carolina and tried to catch their foe sleeping through a long-shot in Kansas.

None of it worked.

In the special elections for House seats vacated by Republicans who wound up in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, Democrats went 0-for-4.

Now, party officials, strategists and candidates are pondering what went wrong — and how they can turn it around in time for the 2018 midterm elections.

Jon Ossoff’s loss Tuesday night in a hyper-competitive Georgia race — the most expensive in history — “better be a wake up call for Democrats,” tweeted Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, an emerging Democratic leader.

“We need a genuinely new message, a serious jobs plan that reaches all Americans, and a bigger tent,” he wrote, “not an smaller one. Focus on the future.”

The losses aren’t all doom and gloom for Democrats. The party got closer than it has in decades to winning some of the four seats — a sign they’ve closed their gaps with Republicans in both suburban and rural areas and in 2018 will have a broad playing field with dozens of more competitive districts.

In truth, all four of these special elections took place in red-leaning or heavily red-leaning districts and/or states. In essence, even in the best of circumstances, Republicans already had the built-in advantage. Some of them were closer than expected, which may be the silver lining for Democrats heading into 2018.

Democrats are trying to find bright spots, but the kick in the teeth still hurts:

“There are two ways to digest this result for Democrats — with our brains and with our guts,” said Tom Bonier, a top Democratic data and targeting guru.

Besting previous Democratic marks in each district that held a special election is a reason for optimism, he said. “But instinctually, this hurts, because it was about more than a single seat,” Bonier said.

“It was an opportunity to throw a wrench into Republican recruiting and fundraising efforts for 2018; to potentially set off a wave of retirements, creating easier to win open seats,” he said. “Logically, the difference of a few thousand votes in a single special election shouldn’t have such an impact. But these decisions aren’t always made based on logic alone.”

Now, for Republicans on the other hand, a 4-0 special election sweep should be a wake-up call in the other direction. The big fear from many GOP leaders has been the “Trump effect” of losing House seats in a voter backlash. Well, so far, that has not happened, so the DC Republican establishment should probably pay attention unless they want to create a backlash against themselves among the Trump base.

The Georgia election stands out among others since Democrats went all-in nationally, as did Republicans. There were Super PACs involved and millions of outside dollars flowing into the state making it the most expensive House race in history. One of the biggest catalysts, Democrats hoped, was the repeal of ObamaCare. That issue didn’t pan out to be the lightning rod, as ABC News reports:

Republicans just got a big argument for sticking with President Donald Trump and pushing forward with dismantling “Obamacare.” And Democrats are looking almost incapable of translating the energy of their core supporters into actual election wins.

Trump sent supporters a text message crowing, “Congrats to Karen Handel on a HUGE win in GA! Democrats lose again (0-4). Total disarray. The MAGA Mandate is stronger than ever. BIG LEAGUE.”

As the results rolled in Tuesday, AshLee Strong, spokeswoman to House Speaker Paul Ryan, mused over Twitter, “Remember when they told us we’d be punished in the special elexs for following through on our promise to #RepealAndReplace #obamacare?”

Had any of these four special elections gone the other way, it would have given ammunition to the anti-Trump forces pointing out the realization of a backlash on things like health care and other domestic agenda items. As it stands now, Trump keeps “winning” which means Democrats will be back at the drawing board trying to seriously war game out a 2018 midterm strategy that might bear some fruit.

Nate Ashworth: Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.