With the votes counted and Republican Karen Handel declared the winner in Tuesday’s special election to fill the vacant seat in Georgia’s sixth Congressional district, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Thursday that the media was right about the race all along: “It was a referendum on Donald Trump.”
Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff, keeping Georgia’s sixth district under GOP control after the most expensive House race in history. Democrats, eager to seize the seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, poured money into the race. In the run-up to Election Day, polls showed Ossoff and Handel in a dead heat just months after Price had won reelection by more than 23 percentage points.
The race was characterized in some corners as an early bellwether of support for the president, who won Georgia’s sixth district by just a single point over Democrat Hillary Clinton last November. Handel’s nearly four-point win, along with other GOP victories in special elections across the country, proves that the president is more popular than many in the media think. —
“So the news media had it right. This was a referendum on Trump. He won,” he said. “The problem for the news media is they can’t come to grips with the fact that in five different specials, the Republicans have won, and that sort of says maybe Trump’s doing a lot better in America than he is in the news media.”
The glut of money from outside Georgia that funneled into Ossoff’s campaign ultimately became a weapon against him, said Gingrich, who once represented the same suburban Atlanta district that Handel won Tuesday. Ossoff’s residency outside the district he was running to represent counted as another strike against him, the former speaker said.
“In the end, I think the margin of victory were people who were determined not to allow the news media and Nancy Pelosi and Hollywood liberals to defeat Donald Trump in their district, and I think that was probably the margin of victory,” Gingrich said.
The former speaker joked that he would hate to see Democrats make a change in leadership away from Pelosi, their current minority leader in the House. “We have all the ads done,” Gingrich said. “We know exactly how to run against a Nancy Pelosi-run party.”
Pelosi’s leadership has also faced challenges from inside her party. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who mounted an unsuccessful challenge last year to unseat Pelosi as minority leader, said Thursday on MSNBC that it will be hard for Democrats to win back the House with Pelosi at the party’s helm.
Democrats have a "toxic" brand nationwide, Ryan said, allowing the GOP to tie individual candidates to Pelosi and other Democratic leaders. On "Fox News," Gingrich suggested that Republicans would take exactly that strategy for as long as Democrats let them.
“I hope they keep Nancy for 10 more years. I want her there for at least another decade,” he said. “We’d love to have the question be in 2018 Nancy Pelosi versus Paul Ryan, and I hope that the Democrats keep her right where she is for a long, long time. At least a decade.”