- - Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Congressional Democrats were counting on two special elections this month to provide the smelling salts to revive their dispirited ranks. The first, on Tuesday in Kansas, fizzled. Now all hope is focused on a reliably red district in the suburbs of Atlanta.

Ron Estes, the state treasurer of Kansas, held on to the seat vacated when Rep. Mike Pompeo resigned to become the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Democrats have tried to spin that as a “moral” victory since President Trump won the district by 27 points in November, Mr. Pompeo won it by 31, and Mr. Estes won it by 6 points. But moral victories have never put anyone in Congress, and the relatively close margin was probably less reflective of voter dissatisfaction with President Trump and more the consequences of a fierce fratricide between conservatives and conservatives-lite among Kansas Republicans.

Now all eyes are focused on the race in Georgia, where the Democrats are counting on Trump Derangement Syndrome to win the day. The party is investing heavily in a candidate named Jon Ossoff. He boasts that he has raised millions but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that 95 percent of the money has come from out-of-state contributors. That usually spells trouble.

Mr. Ossoff, 30, is one of five Democrats running in a jungle primary on April 18, and the party has united behind him in the race to win the seat vacated by Rep. Tom Price to become secretary of health and human services in the new administration.

Eleven Republicans and two independents are running, too, and if, as expected, no one wins a majority the two top finishers, whether Republican or Democrat, will settle things in a run-off on June 20.

The district is staunchly Republican; Newt Gingrich once held the seat. Jon Ossoff has no choice but to run as one of a species thought extinct in the South, a “moderate Democrat.” But Mr. Ossoff was once a staff aide of Rep. Hank Johnson Jr., who is so liberal that he gets 100 percent approval from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Brady Campaign to eliminate guns in private hands, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Jon Ossoff was carefully mentored by Hank Johnson.

Mr. Ossoff is counting on the low turnout typical of special elections and an energized Democratic base, if there is one. Donald Trump edged Hillary Clinton by just 2 percentage points, but the Republican incumbent won by 23 points, and Trump Derangement Syndrome may not be gift the Democrats are counting on, either. A recent Politico-Morning Consult poll of 1,995 registered voters, conducted at the beginning of the month, shows the president’s job approval-disapproval rating almost evenly split at 46 percent approve, 48 percent disapprove.

Such a poll is no great shakes for any president, but congressional elections usually turn on local issues, and there’s no actual evidence of a great explosion of anger and opposition to Republican congressmen that Democrats and the liberal media insist they see.

Democrats were counting on winning in both Kansas and Georgia as the thunder-and-lightning needed to fatally wound the new government and provide the momentum to seize Congress next year. The thunder has faded, as thunder always does, leaving everything to lightning, which can be lethal, but rarely strikes where expected.

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