Georgia special election goes to runoff as GOP gets wakeup call

After host Don Lemon read off the most recent tallies, showing Ossoff just a tick over 50%, Kingston - a former Georgia congressman himself - weighed in by stating that the Democrat had tons of money and every advantage he could get but was unable to close the deal.

Democrats, meanwhile, saw Handel - whose 55th birthday was Tuesday - as the Republican against whom they would fare the best, in part because of her conservative stances on social issues and attacks on Planned Parenthood.

Given those fundamentals, Ossoff has tried to capitalize on the anti-Trump energy while still appealing to independents and moderate Republicans in the conservative district.

Ossoff has pledged to fight Trump when he "embarrasses" the country.

National Republicans say any of the four competitive candidates could defeat Ossoff in a second round of voting.

As Donald Trump and Republicans have spent the past three months displaying their complete incompetence when it comes to governing the country, Democrats are raking in boatloads of money in states where the GOP is supposed to perform well in 2018. They predict voters would be energized in a Republican vs. Democrat scenario, making it harder for Ossoff to run above the fray as he has leading up to the primary. However, Ossoff's current lead won't matter unless he manages to capture more than 50 percent of the total vote.

Ossoff's odds would lengthen in a runoff, as Republicans will have the opportunity to coalesce around one candidate instead of being split. Ossoff almost flipped a solid-red district full of wealthy conservatives with whom President Trump is proving to be very unpopular. But others struck a decidedly more centrist tone, talking about how he wanted to cut wasteful spending, boost infrastructure investment and attract new tech jobs to the area.

It still wasn't enough for voters like Matt West, a 45-year-old financial planner from Roswell. He will face off against Republican Karen Handel on June 20 to determine the fate of Georgia's 6th Congressional District.

West said he voted for the Republican Handel. But Ossoff's campaign maintains momentum, fueled by more than $8 million in contributions from all over the nation, and liberal advocacy groups on Tuesday hailed his first-place finish as a success in its own right.

As for residency, Ossoff acknowledges that he lives just south of the district, in Atlanta, so that his girlfriend is close to her work at Emory University's medical complex.

"This race is absolutely and entirely a referendum on President Trump", said one Republican consultant granted anonymity to speak candidly about the contest.

CBS News etimates showed up to twenty-point gaps between the early and Election Day votes as the county reports came in - perhaps reflecting a late surge in Republican interest in the race and what appears to have been strong, late turnout efforts from the GOP.

"Republican voters are not going to sit by and let this district go to a Democrat", Handel said.

Associated Press reporter Catherine Lucey in Washington and Kathleen Foody in Alpharetta, Georgia, contributed.

  • Leroy Wright