- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff — of 2017 special election fame — has launched a bid to unseat Republican Sen. David Perdue in the 2020 election, setting up a potential high-profile Senate battle next fall that could test the Democratic theory that Georgia is becoming bluer.

In fact, the longtime Deep South GOP bastion could end up being the biggest battleground in the raging battle for control of the Senate following ailing Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson’s announcement he is resigning later this year, widening the playing field in an election year in which Republicans will be seeking to defend their slim majority in a cycle when the GOP will be defending far more seats than the opposition.

“The Georgia races are the type of races where Democrats need to win to get back to the majority,” said Nathan Gonzales, the editor and publisher of Inside Elections.

Republicans currently hold a 53-to-45 seat majority in the Senate, along with two independents caucus with the minority Democrats.

By most accounts, Democrats still face an uphill battle to flip the chamber, but there is a path to victory and it likely goes through states like Georgia, which has not had a Democratic senator since 2005, but that has become much more competitive in recent statewide elections.

“Georgia, I’m running for Senate,” Mr. Ossoff said in his campaign announcement. “Political corruption threatens our republic and the future of the planet. The battle we ‘began’ in Georgia in 2017 will be ‘won’ in Georgia in 2020 when we win the White House and the Senate.”

Mr. Ossoff rose to political prominence in the 2017 special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District for the seat that opened after former Rep. Tom Price joined the Trump administration. Mr. Ossoff raised almost $30 million, an eye-popping sum for a House election, but ultimately came up short in a runoff race against Republican Karen Handel by almost 4 points.

But in a sign of the changing political landscape, especially in the state’s fast-growing suburbs, Ms. Handel lost the seat just two years later to Democrat Lucy McBath. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams nearly became the first black woman governor, reinforcing the belief in the Democratic ranks that Georgia’s changing voter base was making the state more competitive in areas that used to be GOP-friendly territory.

Jay William, a Georgia-based GOP strategist, said the odds are that Mr. Ossoff and optimistic Democrats are set for a reality check in the 2020 election.

“Assuming the economy just doesn’t implode, I would put my money on Republicans,” he said.

Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama is arguably the most vulnerable incumbent in the 2020 election, increasing the odds that Democrats will need to flip at least one seat just to maintain the balance of power in the Senate.

GOP targets also include Democratic Sens. Gary Peters of Michigan and Tina Smith of Minnesota and the seat in New Mexico that will open up now that Sen. Tom Udall is taking a pass on running for reelection.

But the GOP has its own vulnerabilities. Political handicappers generally agree the most vulnerable Republicans in 2020 are Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Susan Collins of Maine and perhaps Tom Tillis of North Carolina, who was booed at a Trump rally this week in his home state.

“There is a path to the majority for Democrats,” Mr. Gonzales said. “It is just not as likely as Republicans maintaining control as we look at this more than a year before the election.”

Mr. Gonzales, though, also pointed out the race races are fluid at this point, and that six years ago Joni Ernst was a little known state legislature as she embarked on a successful campaign for a Senate seat in Iowa.

“There is time for these candidate fields to develop, particularly on the Democratic side,” he said.

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