The Topline: Runoff Your Ossoff
For a brief moment last night, it looked like Democratic candidate and Han Solo cosplayer Jon Ossoff might just clear the 50-percent-plus-one-vote hurdle to win the Georgia’s 6th Congressional district outright. Instead, he topped the 18-candidate field with 48.1 percent of the vote, setting up a June runoff election against second place finisher Republican Karen Handel.
Ossoff’s voteshare is pretty close to the 46 percent he was polling in the surveys conducted closest to election day. So while pundits parse the meaning of the result, pollsters can take a small and much needed victory lap, after doing very well at pegging the candidate order and overall performance.
President Donald Trump, who tweeted and robo-called himself into the final news cycle of the race took credit for victory. But it’s not at all clear that holding a Democrat to 48 percent in this specific district is a positive outcome for Trump and the GOP. How exactly to measure the outcome depends on your yardstick. Compared to the last congressional race, Ossoff’s performance looks terrific. Now-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price won the Georgia 6th by more than 20 points in November 2016, and by 32 points in 2014. But Trump won the district by just 1.5 points, so comparing yesterday’s outcome to presidential vote totals makes it seem less surprising.
All that together with another special election adds up to what appears to us to be a good sign for Democrats. Republican Ron Estes won the Kansas 4th Congressional district, which Trump won by 27 points, by only 7 points. Now-CIA director Mike Pompeo won the seat in November by 31 points, and in 2014 by 34. But special elections are not fully predictive of how the midterms could shape up. And the split nature of the Georgia and Kansas results -- big Democratic gains compared to past congressional elections, but still falling short of the goal -- gives both sides rhetorical ammunition.
The next tea leaves will come out west, in next month’s special election for Montana’s At-Large Congressional seat, which was vacated when Ryan Zinke became Secretary of the Interior, and then in the Georgia runoff in June. If Democrats manage a win in one or both of those seats, it would be a surer sign of a blue wave building. But for now, chalk the Georgia 6th up as a likely hopeful sign for Democrats, but with enough ambiguity to keep cable news talking heads busy for months.
Our latest poll for WBUR came out last week. It focused in on the 50 towns in Central Massachusetts won by Donald Trump, and his voters there, at least, are still with him:
“The survey found that 42 percent of all voters in these towns view Trump favorably, while 45 percent view him unfavorably. Those numbers might not sound great for Trump, but they're a lot better than his national numbers. And Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the WBUR survey, says they reflect strong support from those who voted for him in these towns.”
From the same WBUR poll:
“Republican Gov. Charlie Baker is no stranger to popularity, or to bipartisanship. But the numbers in the new WBUR poll are unique — even for him. In the survey of Republican-leaning towns in central Massachusetts, Baker is viewed more favorably by registered Democrats than by members of his own party.”
“Republicans appear to be preparing another run at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. The New York Times reported Tuesday that a new version of the wildly unpopular American Health Care Act may be in the works. The initial bill was pulled last month after it lost support on both the right and left ends of the Republican caucus. The last poll before the Republican bill went off life support showed just 17 percent of voters supported the proposal. If the new bill is anything like what the Times report suggests, it may be just as much of a political loser.
“That’s because Republicans love Obamacare.”
“The sales tax proposal puts Democrats in a bit of a bind. On the one hand, lowering a regressive tax like the sales tax (lower income people spend a larger share of their income buying consumer goods) while raising taxes on the wealthy would make the state’s tax code more progressive, a cause often favored by Democrats. But rebalancing the tax code is only a secondary goal of the campaign for the millionaire's tax. Instead, the leaders of the “Fair Share” campaign have focused on the need for new revenues to bolster education and transportation spending.”
Finally, MPG President Steve Koczela testified this week before the Massachusetts State Legislature on letting regions put transportation measures on the ballot for voters to approve. The concept remains very popular with voters.
Charlie Baker is once again America’s most popular governor, according to a new Morning Consult poll. Chris Christie... not so much. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey are in the middle of the pack among senators.
Bill O’Reilly is reportedly out at Fox News after advertisers ditched his program in response a growing list of accusations of sexual harassment. A recent Morning Consult poll shows over half of respondents think Fox should drop the program. But HuffPost/YouGov finds that 65% of O’Reilly viewers still have a favorable view of him.
---------------------Nerd Alert Tear Line -------------------
Nyet! Springfield MA, which for years has hosted what they unofficially called the World’s Largest Pancake Breakfast, has had the title officially stolen by Russia who served up 12,716 “crepes.” According to our elaborate and infallible statistical analysis, crepes are not pancakes and should not be treated as such by the judges. Even so, if it comes down to patriotic consumption of pancakes to restore Springfield’s title, we at The MassINC Polling Group are ready to do our part. And so is state government.