Before we go overboard analyzing the meaning of the narrow special-election victory of a Republican in a Republican district, we should remember how it came to be that a Democrat named Jon Ossoff managed to raise and spend more than $30 million in this House race — the most expensive such race in history by a very large margin — only to lose it.
Democrats enraged and emboldened by the Trump victory in November came out of the gate hard and fast against the incoming regime. They organized gigantic protests and rallies and succeeded in trumping Trump’s inaugural weekend with an awe-inspiring 3-million-person turnout nationwide for the so-called “women’s march.”
And when the president nominated Rep. Tom Price to be his secretary of health and human services, the table was set for an epic effort to show these stunning protests could have stunning real-world results.
Price, a congressman from Georgia, represented a largely affluent suburban district outside Atlanta that Trump had only won by 1.5 percentage points after Mitt Romney had taken it by 24 (and Price by 23.4). The district clearly had problems with Trump personally and that disaffection seemed like potentially fertile ground.
Democrats and liberals were frantic about doing something positive, something meaningful, something powerful after the November wound, and word whipped around the country that there was a winnable fight in a Georgia special election with a primary election on April 18.
No one quite anticipated the desperate enthusiasm that would follow as Ossoff entered the fray. The no-name Democrat who’d challenged Price in 2016 had raised and spent less than $1,000. The Daily Kos, the leftist Web site that pioneered grass-roots Internet political fund-raising, generated $1 million for Ossoff in a matter of weeks.
Ossoff raised nearly $9 million by election day in April. No one had ever seen anything like it. The need was pressing; if Ossoff could get 50.001 percent of the vote that night, he’d immediately go to Congress as the district’s representative. If he fell short but still led, he’d face a June runoff.