It’s not every day that you see a sitting president push hard for a candidate in a congressional race. It’s also not every day that a president sends “official statements” via Twitter.
But here we are in 2017, and President Donald Trump certainly hasn’t shied away from letting it be known who he’s supporting in the runoff election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district for the vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Trump, who pledged his support to Republicans ahead of the April 18 first round of voting, made one final effort to sway voters to vote for former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel in the crucial House race.
Hours before the polls opened, he urged voters in the district to check Handel’s name on their ballots instead of Democrat Jon Ossoff, a first-time politician who polling suggests holds a narrow lead.
Trump alluded to the fact that Ossoff lives just outside of the 6th district by saying he can’t even vote for himself.
Ossoff lives with his girlfriend Alicia nearby Emory University in Atlanta. If he were to win the race, he told CNN that he would moved back to the district where he grew up after she finishes medical school.
But that wasn’t Trump’s only of the day tweet regarding the election. He sent out another one saying that the election — along with another in South Carolina — are big races.
Prior to the first round of voting, Trump recorded a robocall telling voters to stay away from Ossoff, who he compared to Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
“(On April 18) there is a special election for Congress in Georgia,” Trump said in the recording, which was issued one night before the election. “Only you can stop the super liberal Democrats and Nancy Pelosi’s group, and in particular, Jon Ossoff.,,if you don’t vote tomorrow, Ossoff will raise your taxes, destroy your health care and flood our country with illegal immigrants.”
Ossoff ended up prevailing in the first round of voting, but because nobody received 50 percent support, the race to replace former Rep. Tom Price moved toward a runoff between the top-two candidates — Ossoff and Handel.
Trump issued a congratulatory tweet to Handel after it was official.
Perhaps the reason Trump’s been so active in supporting Handel is because of how high the stakes are in the district.
What’s at Stake for Both Sides
As Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight wrote, “a loss for Handel would probably be interpreted by the GOP as a sign that the status quo wasn’t working.” The GOP is looking for a “signal of any kind” so that the party can coordinate its strategy moving forward, Silver added. A win for Ossoff would give Democrats a gigantic victory after previous efforts have failed and put them on the right track ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
A Handel victory, on the other hand, would be a huge momentum boost for Trump and the GOP and another tough loss for Democrats.
In 2012, Mitt Romney won Georgia 6 by over 23 percentage points, and it seemed like a chance at flipping the district blue for the the first time since 1979 was a far cry. But then the 2016 presidential election happened, and Trump defeated Hillary Clinton won by just 1.5 points.
That certainly raised some eyebrows for both Democrats and Republicans, and an all-out effort was made by both sides to win the race.
So much so, that it’s the most expensive congressional race in U.S. history with ad spending eclipsing $50 million.
Other Notables Weighing in on the Race, Too
Following Trump’s footsteps, members from both national parties have come out of the woodwork to lend their support to their respective candidate.
Sen. Bernie Sanders has publicly come out and supported Ossoff, albeit after a dustup, as well as Reps. Hank Johnson and John Lewis. Ossoff also garnered the support of actors Samuel L. Jackson and George Takei, too.