As the special election to fill the Georgia House seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price steams toward the climactic June 20 runoff, it’s now certain to set a record as the most expensive House race ever.
The two campaigns and their partisan allies have already spent about $26 million on TV ads alone, with nearly a month left. The total spending is roughly even, with Jon Ossoff’s heavy small-donor-based campaign spending being balanced by the national GOP groups — particularly Paul Ryan’s Congressional Leadership Fund — running ads for Karen Handel. As NPR reports:
So far, the candidates and outside groups are on track to spend at least $30 million just on TV ads.
For context, that’s more than a third of the roughly $75 million President Trump’s campaign spent on ads during the nationwide general election.
Georgians are unaccustomed to this kind of media barrage, with the Peach State not being a presidential battleground state lately, and statewide and congressional races not generally hosting insanely wealthy self-funding candidates. My own stepmother and brother live in Georgia’s Sixth District (as did I off and on for decades), and they report personal campaign contacts on a mind-boggling level, in addition to the endless pounding of TV ads. It could spur voters to go to the polls early to get rid of the canvassers, and/or could produce even higher turnout than in the April 18 primary.
There has been very limited public polling since the primary, but a new Survey USA poll shows Ossoff up 51-44 among likely voters. When in-person early voting begins on May 30, we’ll get a better idea of how well the two campaigns are doing in terms of mobilizing their voters. But no matter what happens, it seems the widespread early predictions — including my own — that the GOP would likely win the special election because voters favoring a Democratic candidate simply would not show up did not take into account the “special” nature of this Trump-dominated off-year election cycle.
The contest will almost certainly be close, but at the moment it looks like it may be Jon Ossoff’s to lose.