At some point in the last few months, much of the media and both major political parties decided the special election in Georgia’s sixth district was A Very Important Thing. The combatants were Karen Handel, an otherwise normal Republican who happens to be a woman, and Jon Ossoff, a trendy Democrat with a neat hashtag who didn’t live in the district. Nothing else about the GA-6 contest was all that notable.
Yet almost overnight, the race became a referendum. National cable news channels treated GA-6 like a presidential primary, with daily polling data, breathless analysis, and live coverage. Political pundits disgorged thinkpiece after thinkpiece on the contest. Congressmen and politicians gave interviews emphasizing the race’s importance. The talking heads insisted that the GA-6 result would capture the mood of the country, tell us things about Donald Trump, foreshadow 2018, and probably cure cancer.
Perhaps most importantly, money flooded into the race from donors across the United States. Whatever their policy differences, Republicans and Democrats both agreed this House election was really important—so important that it breezed to the title of most expensive House race in history.
Then a Republican won a reliably Republican district in reliably red Georgia. Whoop-di-doo.
Imagine how silly both parties must feel. A giant chunk of change that the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee could have used on other, closer 2018 races is gone. They burned it all in a House race for a seat that’s been held by a Republican since 1979, when a young upstart named Newt Gingrich won.
The folks who said GA-6 was going to be about Trump must feel especially chagrined. Trump’s approval rating has dropped steadily since his election. In 2016, he won only 48 percent of the vote in GA-6 to Hillary’s 47 percent. Surely Handel was in trouble, the prognosticators prognosticated, because some reluctant Trump voters might not show up for her. Some polls showed the race was tight. But polls can be misleading. Ask every 2016 election pollster.
Even-keeled Tom Price won almost 62 percent of that district’s vote in 2016. In prior years, he won by even wider margins. Did the prognosticators really think Trump’s antics since becoming president had changed many reluctant Trump voters’ minds about other, more even-keeled Republicans?
The worst part is that we saw this movie two weeks ago. Remember how the James Comey hearing was going to be earth-shattering, monumental, history-making? At least in that case I assume no one spent $55 million betting on the outcome.
Look, I love political drama as much as the next guy. I wonder, though, if there’s a point where the average American should exercise caution. Maybe next time the media insists a political event is special, we should take a second look before buying the hype.