5 Take-Aways From Karen Handel's Victory Over Jon Ossoff
Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel prevailed in the Georgia 6th runoff election Tuesday evening over Democrat golden boy Jon Ossoff. While the margin might have been closer than Republicans would like, the GOP still held onto a seat and elected the first Republican woman to represent Georgia in Congress.
Here are five major take-aways from the Georgia 6 runoff election.
1. Money doesn't win elections.
As if the 2016 presidential primaries and general election were not enough, the Georgia 6 special election underscored that money does not win elections. This special election was the most expensive House election in U.S. history, and the candidate who spent the most lost.
Ossoff's campaign raised and spent $24 million, while Handel's campaign only raised and spent $4.5 million. Handel did receive more support from outside groups ($18.2 million supporting her or attacking Ossoff) than Ossoff did (just under $8 million supporting him or attacking Handel). But Ossoff still received $10 million more in support than Handel.
Ironically, Ossoff's huge war chest might have hurt him. In the last two months, the Democrat reported receiving nine times more donations from California than from Georgia. In the nine counties of the San Francisco Bay Area alone, Ossoff reported receiving 3,063 donations, nearly four times the Georgia total of 808 gifts. Republicans hit him on that, while Democrats focused on Handel's support from "dark money."
In the presidential election, Hillary Clinton outspent Donald Trump by a factor of 2-to-1, pro-Clinton ads outnumbered pro-Trump ads 3-to-1, "dark money" spending for Clinton beat Trump by 3-to-1, and Clinton backers ran 3 times as many ads in battleground states. The three biggest super PACs in that cycle backed a losing candidate.
Money does not win elections, votes do. "Campaign spending facilitates speech, and ads can only persuade voters who support the candidate's message," David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, told PJ Media. Campaign spending is most helpful in a primary, when name recognition is low and when one particular ad can effectively define a candidate.
In the case of Ossoff the extra ads arguably contributed to fatigue, which might have depressed his vote totals.