Ossoff will only need to garner an additional two percentage points to win the seat, but with the GOP now able to galvanize around a single candidate instead of 11, those votes may prove challenging to scrounge together. Ultimately, the race will be determined by turn-out, and the Democrat may be able to press his advantage with an energized base that very nearly flipped a solidly red district.
A nationwide groundswell of support for Ossoff accounted for his ample campaign coffers (he’d raised over $8 million) as well as an army of volunteers. Early in the day, it seemed that returns from early voting might well put him over the top. But final results did not trickle in until late that night, and it became clear Ossoff would fall just shy of an outright majority. The day was also marred by confusion and reports that voters were being turned away from polling places, even though they had just voted there in November.
The race now becomes a run-off election to be held on June 20th between Ossoff and Handel. Ossoff was upbeat and optimistic despite narrowly failing to win an outright majority of votes. “Bring it on,” Ossoff told a crowd of his supporters late on Tuesday night, in a speech that evoked and even appeared to intentionally impersonate Barack Obama.
Osseff’s opponent in the run-off is a self-described Trump supporter and well-known GOP candidate who has faced controversy after being fired from Susan G. Komen for the Cure following attempts to foist her anti-abortion stance onto the organization. Handel is also a veteran campaigner, having made two unsuccessful bids to be senator and governor of the state. Her support of Trump and her staunch social conservatism may turn off more moderate GOP voters, however, making the run-off even more of a referendum on both Trump and on whose values should be represented in Washington.