With President Trump embroiled in a federal probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and GOP congressional leaders struggling to salvage their agenda, Democrats appear to have a golden opportunity to make a comeback in the 2018 mid-term elections.
Just two weeks before a closely watched special election in Georgia to fill the seat of former Republican Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s secretary of health and human services, a new national tracking poll by Morning Consult shows that registered voters increasingly are turning to the Democrats for leadership on key issues including the economy, health care, energy and education.
On health care, for instance, Republicans held a four-point advantage over the Democrats in March, 43 percent to 39 percent. But that was before the House passed a highly controversial Obamacare repeal and replace bill that the Congressional Budget Office estimates would result in 23 million more Americans without health insurance in the coming years. Now, Democrats hold a 48 percent to 35 percent edge over the Republicans on health care issues.
Similarly, Republicans led Democrats, 49 percent to 32 percent, on the stewardship of the economy in March. That was before Trump had unveiled his fiscal 2018 budget including a big military buildup and deep cuts in social programs. By last weekend, the Republicans’ lead over the Democrats on economic issues had shrunk to just two points – 42 percent to 40 percent.
“The majority of movement for sentiment on these policy areas has been driven by independents and some Democrats, who seemed willing to give Republicans a chance earlier this year but have since grown more pessimistic,” according to an analysis accompanying the survey. “In the most recent Morning Consult survey, 53 percent of registered voters said they view congressional Republicans unfavorably.”
That should be heartening news for Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is attempting to succeed Price in Georgia’s Republican-leaning 6th congressional district in suburban Atlanta. Ossoff, a documentary producer and former congressional staffer, fell just two percentage points short of winning the seat outright in April, and is facing Republican Party operative Karen Handel in the June 20th runoff.
Ossoff came from nowhere to lead a congested field of 18 candidates and amassed an eye-popping $8.3 million campaign war chest – a record for that district that suggested Ossoff stood a better than even chance of prevailing in the runoff. The national Democratic party had held back funding in two other special elections in the red states of Kansas and Montana, but were expected to open wide the spigot for Ossoff, the one candidate most likely to put a Democratic win on the board this year.
But Ossoff’s prospects for winning are suddenly in jeopardy, as the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Congressional Leadership Fund super-PAC that is aligned with House House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and the pro-Trump group America First Policies are bombarding the district with campaign funds and ads while the Democrats hang back.
The NRCC, for example, is running ads claiming that Ossoff “lied” about his national security clearance during his work as a congressional aide, while the America First Policies group is planning to follow with $1.6 million of additional attack ads, according to The Washington Post. Ryan’s super PAC has announced plans to pour an additional $7 million into Handel’s campaign.
By contrast, the premier Democratic super PAC that targets House races has committed only $700,000 more in spending ahead of the runoff, leading some Democrats to fret that their party is blowing their best chance this year to gain some momentum. Jeff Weaver, who managed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, told the Post that “The organs of the Democratic Party need to step up and backstop these candidates.”