Democrat Jon Ossoff came within a hair's breadth of dealing a major blow to President Trump Tuesday night, leading a crowded field of nearly a dozen Republicans but falling just short of winning a Georgia Congressional seat outight.
In a message on his Twitter account Wednesday, the president said the June runoff election triggered by Tuesday's vote represented a battle between Ossoff and his celebrity backers, and Republican Karen Handel's local support.
The victor replaces Republican Tom Price, who stepped down to serve as Trump's Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Special elections will hold particular importance for Democrats this year, as Republicans now control both the House and Senate.More news: House Oversight head Chaffetz to leave Congress after 2018
A similar margin in the 2018 mid-term elections would see the Democrats regain a majority in the House of Representatives.
Trump in the final days of the campaign appeared to perceive the damage an Ossoff win would do to a presidency scoring historically low approval ratings and with an agenda that has been stymied by the courts and Congress.
In a further bad sign of Trump's unpopularity in the district, the ultra-wealthy Republican who closely aligned himself with the president, Bob Gray, performed below his polling average leading into the election.
It also serves notice that GOP candidates may always struggle to handle Trump's polarizing effects; he engenders an intense loyalty among his core supporters but alienates many independents and even Republicans. "Glad to be of help!" he tweeted.
But Trump's deep unpopularity with college-educated white voters - and growing populations of Asians and Hispanics in the area - meant he won the district by less than 2 percentage points last fall, after Mitt Romney carried it by 23 points in 2012. They said their goal was to get over 50 percent.More news: Arkansas Executes 1st Inmate Since 2005
Republican Karen Handel has kept her distance from Trump.
If this is the Republican Party's secret weapon in keeping control of this hotly contested seat in Georgia, then they're in big trouble. Technical problems temporarily slowed reporting from Fulton County, but Ossoff is expected to remain below 50 percent when the all the votes are counted.
Democrat Jon Ossoff is a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker and former House staffer.
He took credit for the results shortly after midnight on Wednesday - even though his unpopularity nationally and in the district is why the race is competitive in the first place.
FEC records also show that 10 outside groups spent $541,586.70 in support of Ossoff's campaign as of April 19, a day after the election.More news: 'Facebook killer' Steve Stephens dead, Pennsylvania police say
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