Savor the flavor of Georgia win, GOP — midterms will be different
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Last night’s special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District was a disappointing outcome for Democrats. But let’s put something to rest right here and now: Democrats are incredibly motivated, energized and hopeful for the opportunities we have in 2018. 

Republicans should be worried. 

Contrary to most accounts, Democrats are not despondent. We are not giving up hope for 2018. Special election results are not predictive of midterm elections, and these results in no way indicate that the party is in disarray. 

There are so many factors that played a part in last night’s election. First and foremost, let’s remember that this is a district that should NEVER have been in contention. It is a ruby-red district held by Republicans since 1972. Seven months ago, Republican Tom Price, Trump’s new Health secretary, won the district by 23 points. Karen Handel, the Republican running against Democrat Jon Ossoff, won by fewer than 4 points. 

As Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said, “Republicans should take cold comfort in their win in GA-06.” Of course, Democrats would have liked to win. Moral victories come up short and empty. So let’s not claim a moral victory in GA-06. 

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Let’s claim a legitimate victory in changing the electorate  — Ossoff got thousands of new Democratic voters to come out for him who had never voted in a midterm election. Let’s claim a victory in making the Republicans spend millions in a race that should have been a yawner. Let’s claim a victory in running up the Democratic and Independent vote to the point where Newt Gingrich’s old seat was in play. 

 

While these victories will not add up to an additional Democratic seat in Congress, they will add to the universe of possibilities Democrats see in November 2018. According to the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index, there are 71 districts that are more competitive than GA-06. Democrats need to capture 24 seats to take control of the House. 

So, as gleeful as Republicans are Wednesday from their win Tuesday — and they should be — they should not let it go to their heads. 

Trump is at an all-time low at 36 percent approval in the latest CBS poll. His support among Republicans has fallen 11 percentage points since April. Majorities of Americans believe he did something illegal or at least unethical with the Russians, and they overwhelmingly disapprove of how he has handled the Russia investigation. 

Don’t get me wrong, Dems clearly need to go back to see what they could have done better — if anything — even in this Georgia district that should be off-limits to any Democrat. 

That is the opportunity that I see for Democrats with the outcome of this election. It was close when a Democrat should not have even dreamed of winning. Let’s look at what worked and what didn’t,and apply that to the upcoming midterms. 

By all accounts, Ossoff ran a terrific campaign, aimed at local issues important to the voters of that district. He was not just anti-Trump. In fact, he rarely mentioned Trump during the run-off. Perhaps next time though, let’s make sure the candidate actually lives in the district. Maybe we find a candidate with a bit more experience. But more probable is that, at the end of the day, this district was just out of reach for Democrats — this time around.   

So where does the party go from here? A healthy debate about messaging and tactics is always a good thing, but make no mistake: Democrats know who we are and what we stand for:

This does not fit on a bumper sticker but it sure as hell works to unite the party and the country. Democrats should not forget that on all these issues, the American people are with us. Our agenda got almost 3 million more votes than theirs. We just need to communicate it boldly, aggressively and unapologetically.    

We are inching toward a midterm cycle in the first term of a deeply unpopular president. Even in normal times, the incumbent president’s party loses an average of 28 seats in that first midterm election. Democrats are winning in the generic congressional ballot and even in some named head-to-head contests.  

As political wonks well know, results in special elections are not at all arbiters of what will come in the approaching midterm cycle. In 2005-06 special elections, Democrats lost three, only to gain 30 seats and the congressional majority in 2006. Conversely, in 2009-10 special elections, Republicans lost three and gained 63 seats and the congressional majority in 2010. 

Candidate recruitment for Democrats continues to go gangbusters. The group, “Run for Something,” reported doubling their numbers of people interested in running just since the polls closed last night in Georgia. 

So while Democrats would certainly have rather won than lost, we are by no means lost. Trump’s dismal performance as commander in chief, the GOP’s dreadful record so far and Democrats dramatic over performance in the last four special elections in reliably red districts, all make for a mix of energy and optimism for us going into 2018. 

Republicans, celebrate your victory. It very well could be a short-lived one.  

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.