The outcome of Georgia’s U.S House election became clear on Tuesday night, and Democrats watched in horror as another Republican won. This race which was watched nationally because it was supposed to signal whether the Democrat-controlled media reporting on the Trump – Russia drumbeat had taken its toll on Americans.
Apparently, the people were not buying it. In Georgia’s Sixth District, the national media was scrambling to find an explanation for Republican Karen Handel’s easy win (53-to-47 percent).
What is obvious from the suburban Atlanta district is that emphasizing a strong conservative agenda on both economic and cultural issues was crucial to rallying the Republican base. The former Georgia Secretary of State, Handel did just that to defeat Democrat and former congressional staffer Jon Ossoff.
Karen Handel signed the anti-tax pledge of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). He competitor, Ossoff, refused. Additionally, Handel also vowed to repeal Obamacare and replace it with the American Health Care Act favored by President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Of course, Ossoff backed the old Obamacare law.
Sources in the Peach State agreed that the issue of Planned Parenthood and whether it should receive tax dollars played a pivotal role in Handel's win.
Where Ossoff supported Planned Parenthood funding and received an estimated $1 million from them in campaign contributions, Handel campaigned against them. She also had a history opposing the controversial organization: In 2012, she resigned in protest as a vice president of the Susan G. Komen cancer foundation after it reversed a decision to end its grants to Planned Parenthood. This is something that made a huge impact on me personally was whether I would continue running in the race for a cure in Estero, Florida.
"Planned Parenthood was the principal issue," former Georgia Rep. John Linder, a past chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Newsmax, "She handled it with dignity. Ossoff said that she stopped Susan G Komen contributions to Planned Parenthood for 'lifesaving breast cancer screening.' She responded that Planned Parenthood doesn't even own a mammogram." And Handel was correct. Planned Parenthood doesn’t even do mammogram screenings at their clinics.
Linder added that this fed into a theme that Ossoff has been lying since the beginning of the race. He didn’t have 'top secret' clearance, as he claimed, Planned Parenthood doesn't do mammograms, and he doesn't live 'just outside the district,' but quite a way out.
Linder's view was strongly seconded by Phil Kent, CEO of Insider Advantage and former editor of the Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle.
"Planned Parenthood was a big issue in the race, and the pro-lifers came out heavily for Karen Handel in response to her record of fighting Planned Parenthood," he told us, "Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed estimated most of its 107,000 identified 'faith voters' in the district turned out for Handel."
Handel agreed with the president on most issues but rarely mentioned his name on the campaign trail. Commenting on a SurveyUSA poll in late May which showed the Republican trailing Ossoff by a margin of 51-to-42 percent districtwide, veteran Georgia GOP consultant Matt Towery complained that "Karen's big mistake was to avoid Trump in her campaign ads. Since this is a special election, she needs to draw voters out to the polls. Defending Trump and saving his agenda by not letting the House lose Republicans is what they need to push their voters out."
The Monday before the voting, the Handel campaign blasted out a Monday morning tweet from the president that "The Dems want to stop tax cuts, good healthcare, and border security……Vote now for Karen H."
We've been saying it for weeks and now President Trump agrees," went an accompanying message from the Handel campaign, "Everything comes down tomorrow to Georgia's special election."
As for Democrats, Steele said, "They wanted to make this election a referendum on President Trump and it was — at least in Georgia — and Trump won. “
The bigger take away is this race affirms the Republican Party is the Party of Trump, and Capitol Hill Republicans now have to figure out how to work with that. The Hill needs to get behind their President, and get the people’s business done.