Trump’s agenda on the line in a hard-fought Georgia House race – Washington Post

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President Trump faces a high-stakes political test Tuesday in a special congressional election that has turned into a referendum on his leadership and could have significant consequences for his stalled agenda on Capitol Hill.

On the eve of the vote to fill a House seat in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, Trump acknowledged that a Republican defeat in the district, which the party has held for nearly four decades, could have wide implications.

“The Dems want to stop tax cuts, good healthcare and Border Security. Their ObamaCare is dead with 100% increases in P’s. Vote now for Karen H,” the president tweeted, referring to Karen Handel, the GOP contender.

Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, is locked in a tight battle against Democrat Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old first-time candidate who lives just outside the district boundary. “Karen Handel’s opponent in #GA06 can’t even vote in the district he wants to represent,” Trump pointed out in another tweet.

Handel and Ossoff are vying to fill the seat vacated by Tom Price, who had held it from 2005 until he joined Trump’s Cabinet as health and human services secretary this year.

Republican congressional candidate Karen Handel greets diners during a campaign stop at Old Hickory House in Tucker, Ga. (David Goldman/AP)

In the first round of voting, on April 18, Ossoff nearly topped the 50 percent threshold that would have given him an outright victory in an 18-candidate primary field. Falling just short, he has found himself in a runoff against Handel, who is scrambling to consolidate the Republican vote.

Though the two contenders rarely mention Trump, the national significance of the contest has brought forth a flood of advertising and organization.

Spending in the race by the campaigns and outside groups has topped $50 million, making it by far the most expensive House contest in U.S. history.

One low point came in the final days of the race, with a super PAC attack ad that showed footage of a bloodied House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) being taken off a baseball field on a stretcher after last Wednesday’s shooting in suburban Washington.

As the sound of gunshots echoes, a narrator says: “The unhinged left is endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans. When will it stop? It won’t if Jon Ossoff wins on Tuesday.”

Both candidates have denounced the ad.

While the affluent district has long been solidly red territory — Price breezed to a 23-point victory in November — it has not been quite as friendly to Trump’s brand of populist Republicanism. He won it over Hillary Clinton by only one percentage point in last November’s general election and had lost it to Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) in the GOP primary.

(Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

The race is also being watched as a possible harbinger of the national dynamics ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, though strategists on both sides note that the amount of resources and attention it has received cannot be replicated across the map.

“The likelihood is the margin is going to be one or two points either way, so it is very easy to over-interpret the outcome,” said Matt Bennett, senior vice president of the centrist Democratic organization Third Way. “But a 20-point swing in a House vote between November and June — that’s a lot.”

For Trump, the consequences could be far more immediate.

A Democratic victory in this traditionally conservative and wealthy swath of suburbia would probably rattle Senate Republicans as they try to jump-start legislation to overhaul the nation’s health-care law by the end of this month. And it would raise questions about whether Trump has retained a strong hold on his party’s base as he turns to other policy ambitions this summer.

“I think this race is a wake-up call to the party and the political arm of the administration to pay attention to what they are doing and not doing that could potentially impact future success for the party at the ballot box,” said former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele.

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