Apr 18, 2017

How to watch tonight's Georgia special election

Top officials in the West Wing — including President Trump and Steve Bannon — will closely monitor Tuesday's special election in Georgia's 6th congressional district. (The vote is to replace Tom Price, the new Health and Human Services Secretary.)

Why Trump cares: Whether he likes it or not, the media will portray this election as an early verdict on his presidency. The year's first special election, in Kansas' usually reliable deep-red 4th district, was way closer than it should've been. A loss in Georgia would further weaken Trump and make his legislative agenda — which relies on him holding his popularity like a knife over recalcitrant Republicans — a fair bit tougher.

What Nate Silver thinks will happen on Tuesday:

  • "If the polls are right, then Democrat Jon Ossoff will receive by far the most votes..."
  • "But Ossoff will probably finish with less than 50 percent of the vote, which would trigger a runoff between him and the next-highest finisher — most likely the Republican Karen Handel, but possibly one of three other Republicans (Bob Gray, Dan Moody Judson Hill) who are closely bunched behind her in polls."
  • Complicating matters further: "[T]he combined vote for all Republican candidates will probably exceed the combined vote for Ossoff and other Democrats, although it should be close. And the district has historically been Republican-leaning, although it was much less so in the 2016 election than it had been previously. All of this makes for a fairly confusing set of circumstances and a hard-to-forecast outcome."

What's next? Silver says Tuesday "won't actually resolve that much — unless Ossoff hits 50 percent of the vote and averts the runoff entirely. (That's an unlikely but hardly impossible scenario given the fairly high error margins of polls under these circumstances.)" Even if Ossoff finishes close to 50 percent, he adds, that's no guarantee he'll win the runoff because the district leans red and Republicans will have a chance to regroup for the June 20 rematch.

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