A tale of two southern seats and more Democratic failure

Last night, the Democrats lost special elections to fill the seats of Rep. Tom Price (R-Georgia) and Mick Mulvaney (R-South Carolina) both of whom were appointed to the Trump cabinet. Democrats with their usual biases dove head first into the Price seat (GA-6) when it became open in February funneling upwards of $25 million towards Jon Ossoff, a former Congressional staffer with extensive Washington DC and party connections. Osoff running as a Clintonian-type candidate in a largely suburban seat bordering a big city fit the Democratic playbook to a tee and the district fits the description of the type the Democrats believe they can flip in the Trump era.

Meanwhile without a big city nearby (well not really, Charlotte NC is just over the border but we wouldn’t expect many Democrats to know that with the growing anti-southern bias of the party) or a candidate with DC connections quite as extensive as Ossoff, the race for Mulvaney’s seat (SC-5) was more less ignored by national Democrats. In one of the quirks of recent American political history, the last two occupants of this seat have both been experts on the Federal Budget. Mulvaney is a die-in-the-wool Paul Ryan type budgetary conservative, but his predecessor, the man he beat in the 2010 tea party wave was Democrat John Spratt, one of the most effective, articulate and intellectually honest members of the House, a man who did chair the House Budget Committee when the party was in the majority. Spratt held the seat under adverse circumstances for Democrats through the years and once the seat was lost in 2010, Democrats simply wrote it off.

Even though the Democrats last held the GA-6 in 1976 when segregationist Democrat John Flynt held off a pesky young Republican professor named Newt Gingrich in the Carter wave locally it was targeted because Hillary Clinton ran well in the district. SC-5 despite its Democratic lineage and never having elected a Republican until 2010 was ignored. Democrats have become a party based around big city-biases, a disdain for the south and the nation’s hinterland in general (while geographically in the south, Democrats have convinced themselves the areas surrounding Atlanta are less “southern” than the region as a whole – they aren’t entirely wrong in this notion but still…) an obsession with local demographics and a bias towards candidates who are connected to elites and on paper look like superstars.

In SC-5, Democrat Archie Parnell raised less than a million dollars and was outspent 2-1. Yet he got a higher percentage of the vote than Osoff did down the road about two and a half hours in GA-6 despite having two minor party challengers in the race. Once again the Democrats talked big, spent big and lost. I’ve recently taken a sabbatical from talking about the failures of the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) and engaging in the personality-driven politics of the state party and its allies. However, that doesn’t prohibit me from giving the national party and its congressional campaign committee scrutiny instead of giving it a pass on clear negligence based on lazy (losing) party stereotypes and the same record of cronyism that has doomed Democrats both here in Florida and across the country

Archie Parnell should be angry at his party today. Democrats across the south should be furious. In fact, Democrats across the country should be raging mad. In a low turnout special election in a seat long held by Democrats, the party more or less took a pass. Meanwhile in a seat not held by Democrats for decades the party poured in a $25 million dollars and lost by a larger margin than in the seat that was given a pass. When it comes to congressional elections, most politics are local and the Democrats attempts to nationalize elections based on a maniacal hatred of President Trump rather than talking local economics has backfired as despite opportunities the Democrats have lost all four Congressional special elections this Spring and Summer. When the GOP captured Congress in 1994, the dominoes began falling in unlikely places in 1993 special elections and kept falling through the fall. Similar patterns can be witnessed in special election victories for Democrats in the 2000’s and GOP in 2009/10 and 2014.

It might soothe the ego of Democrats to claim they are over-performing in these seats. To those with little historical knowledge that might be the case, but the MT, KS, and SC seats that the Dems didn’t contest as seriously as GA-6 were all held by Democrats at some point recently, whereas the seat Ossoff was running in hasn’t been. The Democrats obsession with demographics, candidate profiles, Donald Trump and presidential election numbers in elections which are going to be largely local and low turnout has cost them dearly.

Why should we believe 2018 will be any different?

8 comments

  1. Dave Trotter · · Reply

    Amen.

  2. Dave Trotter · · Reply

    Two other things should be noted. First, Ossoff ran on an anti-Trump message. That hasn’t helped Democrats ever (ask Charlie Crist). Second, the losing campaign that were not targeted by the DCCC focused on economic messages and away from identity politics. Ossoff focuses on identity politics, and sometimes threw in some ACA stuff in there. He never had a progressive economic message.

  3. Correct Dave. I was trying to take a roundabout method of saying that. Because of course the Dems bias towards districts like GA-6 and against ones like MT-AL and SC-5 have to do with a bias toward identity and Trump-bashing and against good old fashioned economic populism which carried the Dem coalition to majorities from 1930 until 1994 and again in a different fashion in the 2008 election.

    1. Jon Ossoff…“There’s no question that money in politics is a major problem, which is one of the reasons that we need campaign finance reform so that candidates and campaigns will spend more time talking to voters and discussing the issues and less time raising money. [but] When you have that kind of an environment, it’s necessary to raise the resources to fight back, I’m proud of the fact that my campaign has raised that money in small-dollar contributions, on average less than $50.”

      Ossoff insists that the majority of Handel’s outside funding came from Washington, D.C., whereas his funding came largely from California Democrats.

      No doubt both campaigns barraged the area. Money from Washington Jon says…I infer that Jon implies the RNC helped his opponent, but he received none or little from the DNC…he establishes distance between his effort and the DNC by pointing out that a large portion of his funding came from California Democrats. I am sure that was known by many Georgians that voted for Handel, and confident that Ossoff considered that source of campaign money insignificant to his voter support. The difference in the number of votes cast and the number of votes for Ossoff was 9,702. How significant is that? Also, how does the source of the greatest part of Ossoff’s campaign coffer, according to him, abide with his stated need for ‘campaign finance reform’? He lost because he didn’t go out and get the votes he needed and his money came from a source that could not vote for him. That is an echo.

  4. AS I was watching the election returns last night I had a call asking me to donate to the Florida Democratic party. I said do we still have a chair (thinking of Bittel)? and the caller said “I don’t know anything about that I am calling for several different states.” It makes no sense at all to me that the Dems would be trolling for money last night.

    On the bright side both parties just sustained the media market in ATL for the foreseeable future.

  5. Kate Ellison · · Reply

    Yes, we have to have a new strategy, and it shocks me to find that economic justice isn’t the cornerstone of every campaign. Aside from the vile racism and sexism, Trump won on providing jobs for people who have been falling farther and farther behind for decades. I’m a Democrat for many reasons, but support for labor has always been our core.

  6. TimDale · · Reply

    Rick Scott and Donald Trump both campaigned on providing jobs. Whether it was cutting regulations to providing jobs or investing in infrastructure they campaigned on jobs. If a reporter asked about the color of the sky they responded by talking about jobs. This isn’t difficult.

  7. […] key seats in the industrial Midwest, the heartland and here in the southeast. Jon Ossoff’s loss in GA-6 on Tuesday despite exorbitant spending by the Democratic Party and allied groups as wel… means that the party still have no white members of Congress elected from a state in the Deep […]

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