Georgia Special Election: A Wake-up Call

Yesterday’s result in the Georgia Sixth has taught us some valuable lessons.

First, money alone is not that important. After Jon Ossoff, the young Democrat, failed to win an outright majority in the first round of voting, money poured into the district. The race quickly became the most expensive one in Congressional history and the money, over $40 million, in one Congressional district became the message and drowned out everything else. NOT GOOD.

Second, messaging is important. Jon Ossoff’s message of moderation succeeded in earning him 48% of the vote in the first round but failed to pick off any voters from all the many losing Republican candidates. In yesterday’s election, his share of the vote held firm at 48% of an overall larger turnout.

Finally, the critical ability of “connectivity” with voters is the most important thing. All accounts that have reached me from friends and family in Atlanta indicate that Ossoff seemed to lack strong voter empathy– whatever it is that makes voters feel like their representatives understand and care about them—he had never run for office and lacked that experience and some of those ineffable, instinctive skills that attract votes.

Ironically, yesterday’s defeat may yet turn out to have been a good thing. If Ossoff had won, it would have been easy for Democrats to rest on their laurels going into 2018, believing that problems with the Trump administration would, as indicated by a victory in this by-election, simply forecast easy victories in 2018.

Now, the Democrats must pick better candidates—people with proven ability to connect to voters and win elections—and give them strong messages.

Let’s make this apparent setback a powerful wakeup call for the midterms.

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