A spe­cial elec­tion that will truly prove spe­cial

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - MATT MACKOWIAK ● Matt Mackowiak is the pres­i­dent of Austin­based Po­tomac Strat­egy Group, a Repub­li­can con­sul­tant, a Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion and Bush-Cheney re-elec­tion cam­paign vet­eran and for­mer press sec­re­tary to two U.S. sen­a­tors. He is the host of a new n

Ifreely ad­mit that we can spend far too much time an­a­lyz­ing the re­sults of one spe­cial elec­tion, oc­cur­ring in a par­tic­u­lar district, with two par­tic­u­lar can­di­dates, held on a par­tic­u­lar day more than 16 months from the 2018 midterms.

Asked to make sweep­ing gen­er­al­iza­tions about our tur­bu­lent con­tem­po­rary pol­i­tics, per­haps we should first col­lec­tively take a deep breath. The po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment will doubt­less be dif­fer­ent next fall than it is to­day.

Just think about how much has come to pass in the first five months of the Trump pres­i­dency. Days feel like weeks, and weeks feel like months.

But un­like the pre­vi­ous spe­cial House elec­tions in Kansas, Mon­tana and South Carolina, Tues­day’s race for Ge­or­gia’s 6th Con­gres­sional District, in which Repub­li­can Karen Han­del de­feated Demo­crat Jon Os­soff by nearly 10,000 votes, or around 3 per­cent­age points, le­git­i­mately earned the ad­jec­tive “spe­cial.”

Mr. Os­soff was a bland and un­re­mark­able young can­di­date who lived out­side the district. He nearly won this seat in April by avoid­ing a runoff al­to­gether. As the race be­came na­tion­al­ized, he be­came the fa­vored ve­hi­cle of the an­tiTrump “re­sis­tance” move­ment, even though he chose not to go af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump di­rectly and of­fered mostly vanilla pol­icy ideas.

We may never again see a con­gres­sional race quite like this, where a first-time can­di­date shatters records by rais­ing over $23 mil­lion, mostly on­line and out of state. Mr. Os­soff hoped that an anti-Trump wave would carry him into of­fice. It didn’t.

As it turns out, you must win the vote with a pos­i­tive, spe­cific agenda that mo­bi­lizes vot­ers.

Does one seat in Congress mean that much? As it re­lates to leg­isla­tive votes, no. But the sym­bolic value of an Os­soff vic­tory would have been sig­nif­i­cant.

So while Repub­li­cans held a seat that Tom Price and Newt Gin­grich have pre­vi­ously won, by deny­ing Democrats a win of national sig­nif­i­cance, they gained far more than just one con­gres­sional seat.

Let’s con­sider an al­ter­nate re­al­ity where Mr. Os­soff wins.

It likely would have sped up House GOP re­tire­ments, forc­ing party of­fi­cials to re­cruit new can­di­dates in safe seats and raise more money.

It cer­tainly would have led to a fundrais­ing boom for Democrats, for the Demo­cratic National Com­mit­tee, for the House Demo­cratic cam­paign arm, for lib­eral groups and for Demo­cratic con­gres­sional can­di­dates.

It would have di­vided Repub­li­cans, caus­ing some to ques­tion whether they needed to dis­tance them­selves from Mr. Trump ahead of the midterms.

It would have dealt the Trump White House a po­lit­i­cal set­back at an in­op­por­tune time, as the Se­nate health care bill is be­ing un­veiled and as the House con­tin­ues to de­velop a tax re­form bill — both ahead of the sum­mer re­cess pe­ri­ods. The re­al­ity is far bet­ter for Repub­li­cans. De­spite hav­ing a huge fi­nan­cial ad­van­tage, Mr. Os­soff un­der­per­formed Hil­lary Clin­ton’s 2016 per­for­mance in this district.

The Ge­or­gia district is ex­actly the type of district House Democrats will need to win back the ma­jor­ity in 2018: educated, marginally Repub­li­can, sub­ur­ban. But Democrats af­ter Tues­day’s vote are di­vided, sitting in a cir­cu­lar fir­ing squad where no one can agree why they lost and who de­serves blame.

So far in 2017, Repub­li­cans ran the ta­ble, go­ing four-for-four in spe­cial elec­tions (caused by Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion Cabi­net ap­point­ments), and their side re­mains united, uni­fied and en­er­gized.

All eyes now re­turn to Capi­tol Hill, where Repub­li­cans need to take mean­ing­ful steps to­ward re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing Oba­macare, and where the House needs to make progress to­ward a tax re­form bill.

Leg­isla­tive time is slip­ping away, as Au­gust is a dead month, and Septem­ber will be con­sumed by the debt-ceil­ing de­bate and fund­ing is­sues.

Chat­ter about can­cel­ing the Au­gust re­cess is pick­ing up, and while mem­bers need and want district work time and sum­mer va­ca­tions, the Trump White House will likely have lit­tle pa­tience for a valu­able month be­ing given away af­ter few ma­jor leg­isla­tive ac­com­plish­ments in the first five months.

Repub­li­cans earned a chance to pass ma­jor re­forms, and they pulled to­gether to pre­vent Democrats from gain­ing valu­able po­lit­i­cal mo­men­tum with a win in Ge­or­gia.

Now is the time to seize this mo­ment.

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