It must be tough to be Jon Ossoff at the moment.
Seeking a high-profile rebuke to President Donald Trump and evidence that voters are fed up with Trump's mercurial, often dysfunctional presidency, national Democrats desperately wanted this one. Nothing, obviously, could be sweeter than to humiliate Trump by capturing a seat in a red state that once belonged to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
The national media, meanwhile, fed the expectation that the race was a make-or-break moment for the nascent Trump era and the president's agenda. As The New York Times explained, the race "has evolved into one of the most consequential special elections in decades."
Despite the staggering financial and emotional investment in this one election, Ossoff lost.
Probably through no choosing of his own, Ossoff became the Democrats' hoped-for harbinger of the 2018 election. The Democrats offered him up as everything Trump isn't, and it seemed to work. He led in public opinion polls for most of the contest.
Now, his failure — in an election, by the way, that Handel would likely have won anyway, and won more easily if the president were not named Trump — has brought scorn from those in his party.
Republicans fought desperately for Handel to prove that the predicted anti-Trump tsunami that awaits them in 2018 is really not coming to pass.
Since Trump took office, five special elections to fill congressional vacancies have been held. One in a heavily Democratic California district is an outlier because the two finalists after the primary were both Democrats. The other four featured a Republican and Democrat going head-to-head — in Kansas, Montana, Georgia and South Carolina — and the GOP has pitched a shutout.
But, as has been claimed since November, Trump got where he is because of disgruntled middle-, working- and lower-class white voters. To win them back, why invest so much time, energy and money in a district where those people aren't? Even then, Hillary Clinton lost that district last fall, albeit narrowly, and she clobbered Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary there with 60 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Handel outperformed Trump.
Despite the outsized amount of hype and the obscene amount of funding, Ossoff, emulating either Clinton or Sanders, would have struggled on Election Day to hold his lead in the polls. Those Georgia voters seemed quite willing to stick with what they know — for now.
Along the way to this "demoralizing" outcome in Georgia, as the Times put it, Democrats apparently forgot the maxim of one of their wisest sages, the late Tip O'Neill: All politics are local. Ossoff's race showed that it may not be all about Trump all the time and believing that might be a losing strategy. Meantime, Ossoff is the poster child for his party's dashed hopes and dreams. As we said, it must be tough to be him.
REPRINTED FROM THE PANAMA CITY NEWS HERALD