Special elections in a non-presidential or midterm election year are typically rather quiet affairs, with low turnout dominated by older, reliable voters. There has, however, been nothing typical about politics these past six months, and the special election in Georgia’s sixth congressional district has been anything but quiet. The congressional race is a hotbed of canvassing enthusiasm, with 18 candidates vying for Tom Price’s seat on April 18th.
Polls in recent weeks initially placed Jeff Ossoff, a thirty-year-old Democrat, in the lead. After a week of early voting, more than 8,100 individuals had cast their ballots in the suburban Atlanta district; 44% of these early voters were Democrats and 23% Republicans, according to an analysis by Michael McDonald, a political science professor and election specialist at the University of Florida. While encouraging to Democrats, early voting surges do not always translate into electoral victory—as Hillary Clinton found to her cost in North Carolina and Florida in 2016. In an effort to bolster Republican candidates, the Congressional Leadership Fund poured $2 million into an ad campaign against Ossoff, and, in recent days, the Republicans have caught up in the vote count; Ossoff seems just shy of the 50% needed to avoid the runoff. But regardless of the outcome, all eyes are riveted to Georgia’s sixth congressional political stage.
This surge of Democratic enthusiasm and Republican opposition has captured national attention. Democrats have touted this race as a referendum on Trump’s presidency and Republicans are determined to retain the seat to help pass legislation in the House. The Kansas Fourth Congressional race, held last week, was unexpectedly close, with the Republican candidate winning by only seven points in a district President Trump had won by twenty-seven.
Data collection is critical not only to projections in Georgia’s special election but also to gather insights regarding voting demographics who may be instrumental in the 2018 midterms. National Democrats have begun to invest in survey research in the suburban Atlanta district during the course of the past week, in an effort to better understand how to engage younger voters, African-American voters and swing voters. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) spokesman Tyler Law reiterates: “Understanding that people are more than numbers, we have made a strategic decision to invest in qualitative research that will not only help us in Georgia’s 6th District, but also inform our message to key groups of voters ahead of 2018.”
With additional special elections coming up in Montana, and California; dozens of mayoral races in major cities across the country, and two bellwether gubernatorial races (including one in Washington’s backyard), all eyes are on the midterm elections of 2018. Research and polling groups are gathering data about critical demographics that can influence electoral turnout; political groups are ramping up their ground staff in preparation for GOTV efforts. With barely a moment to draw breath between the heated presidential election of yesteryear and the upcoming race for the House and Senate, the advantage will lie with those that can sufficiently galvanize their base.
Headway provides high-quality, trained field staff nationwide, ready to engage in door-to-door operations, phone banks, and GOTV efforts.