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Georgia Election Takes National Stage


Democrats want to show off a positive election result in Georgia. Democratic Party Chair Tom Perez speaks tonight to Georgia Democrats as he tours the country with Bernie Sanders. Last night, Perez spoke at a rally in Miami.


TOM PEREZ: Just yesterday, because of the collective power of we in this room and across America, Jon Ossoff won 48 percent of the vote there. And we will continue to win because you know what, folks? When we put our unity and our energy and our values into action, that translates to results.

INSKEEP: Here's what he was talking about. A Democratic candidate this week received the most votes in a special election for a House seat in Georgia. He hasn't won yet. There's going to be a runoff now, but Jon Ossoff performed well in that Republican-leaning district. Domenico Montanaro of NPR's Politics team is here to discuss this. Hi, Domenico.


INSKEEP: How much heart can Democrats really take from one House seat that they still haven't actually won?

MONTANARO: Well (laughter) clearly, this is something that Tom Perez has been trying to play up as something that he called first and goal. He said that, you know, he got close enough, it was a close finish. But I can tell you as a long-suffering New York Jets fan, that doesn't always mean you get in the end zone, Steve.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) Can you score when you're in the red zone? That's what you want to know. Go on.

MONTANARO: Right. And he - you know, he's going to have - of course, he's going to present another healthy dose of anti-Trump rhetoric because, frankly, right now, that's about the only thing that's uniting the Democratic Party.

INSKEEP: Is the anti-Trump rhetoric, but that does lead to another question, Domenico Montanaro. Karen Handel is going to be the Republican who is in this runoff. She was far behind Ossoff, but Republicans will be more united now. And she was asked on CNN if President Trump might campaign for her.


KAREN HANDEL: I would hope so. I mean, look, we - all Republicans, it's all hands on deck for us.

INSKEEP: So is it possible that Trump could be rallying the Republican faithful, the Republican base, for a House race even if he is broadly unpopular in the country?

MONTANARO: Well, look, you know, Handel won less than 20 percent of the vote here. And even though she was reticent really to talk about Trump during the primary, she said she wouldn't be anyone's rubber stamp, as you noted. And, you know, she still has to unify the party. She's got to get the rest of those folks behind her. The last thing she needs is a fight with Trump, and he's tying himself to the race, tweeting about it any chance he gets. Meaning, frankly, ahead of next year's midterms with a lot of districts that are like this one, he's going to be important and will likely be the most important issue and tied to every Republican whether they like it or not.

INSKEEP: How anxious are Republicans about 2018?

MONTANARO: You know, they're not anxious - they're not anxious quite yet, right? I mean, they're - there are a lot of districts. The floor seems to have risen a bit. Historically, it's very difficult in a president's first midterm. But I think right now, with the way districts are drawn, they're still confident they'll hold the House.

INSKEEP: Oh, you're saying that because they have such advantage in redistricting, it would be very hard for Democrats to carry everything.

MONTANARO: It could be, yeah.

INSKEEP: OK. Domenico, thanks very much.

MONTANARO: All right.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.