Our Blog

Political Campaign Strategy Insights from Georgia’s Special Election

The political makeup of Georgia’s 6th Congressional District is about as unwavering as they come. It’s been a Republican stronghold since Newt Gingrich took his first House election there in 1978. 

But the political world turned its eyes to the 6th recently for a special congressional election pumped with more donor money than ever before to sway the strongly traditional, affluent, educated district in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. The lesson in demographics and voter insight will be important in developing your own political campaign strategy. 

For the record, Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff by a narrow 3.8% margin -- especially by that district’s standards -- to retain GOP control. 

To learn why, we must analyze the district’s demographics, general thought trends, and how they’re being affected by the current political climate and media.

What Does Georgia’s 6th Look Like?

You’re taking a pleasant step back into yesteryear while strolling the city of Roswell and surrounding areas. You’re likely to end up on a Civil War-era tour or ghost walk with guides dressed in period-appropriate clothing. 

Picture “Gone with the Wind,” fast-forward 150 years, remove the violence, and keep the Deep South charm. Now it has a privileged culture of arts and fine dining. 

Key district numbers: 

  • 72.4% white, 13.4% black, 9.3% Asian, 0.2% Native American
  • 50.3 male, 49.7% female
  • Median age 38
  • $72,832 median household income 

And here’s where it gets really interesting. Georgia’s 6th is the sixth most-highly educated district in the country, with 56% of adults holding college degrees. 

Some other examples on that list: 

  • NY 12th -- Manhattan and Queens (1st place, 69% with college degrees, President Donald Trump’s home district)
  • Wash. 7th -- Seattle (7th place, 56%, Amazon and Starbucks headquarters)
  • Calif. 12th -- San Francisco (8th place, 55%, home to Nancy Pelosi and “San Francisco liberals”)
  • Calif. 17th -- Silicon Valley (11th place, 52%, Apple and Yahoo! headquarters) 

Most of the top 15 educated districts are liberal hotbeds, but not Georgia’s 6th. 

So why did the Democrats funnel a whopping $31 million into Ossoff’s campaign in a district that hasn’t had a Democratic congressman since fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter was president? 

Well, that comes down to demographics and perceptions. They felt they had a serious chance at winning.

How Do You Weigh 3.8 Percentage Points?

While they tried and failed, Democrats hoped for “the Donald Trump effect” in aiming to swing red House seats back to blue in the 2018 midterms. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the district by just 1.5% in 2016. 

Notably: 

  • John McCain (R) beat Barack Obama (D) there by 18% in 2008
  • Mitt Romney (R) beat Obama there by 23.3% in 2012 

With Trump’s approval ratings just above 35%, according to Gallup, DCCC leaders fully expected disillusionment with the president could swing moderate Conservative and Independent voters. 

It didn’t happen. It also didn’t happen in special congressional elections held in South Carolina, Kansas, and Montana, where Democrats hoped to regain ground as a warm-up for 2018. Demographic research by Democrats suggested South Carolina’s hotly contested race in a strong Republican district could’ve been won with a stronger push in black communities. 

But 3.8 percentage points in Georgia? How do you weigh that (or perhaps spin it)?

Alternate Perspectives

Generally, if you’re a Democrat, sneaking closer to victory in traditionally GOP-leaning districts elicits optimism for what’s ahead. Generally, if you’re a Republican, retaining contested House seats amid considerable public animosity means the message still resonates, at least with the base. 

Americans on both sides firmly believe what their sides are saying, now more than ever. Amid the bluster, however, there were important concessions from both sides that are probably closer to the reality and pressure they’re feeling. 

The People Speak to Your Political Campaign Strategy

Some felt Ossoff’s moderate stance was too soft to be effective. Did Democrats learn that too late? Will Republicans learn close races and potential losses are likely a harbinger of elections to come? 

It’s up to you, in developing a sound political campaign strategy, to predict how the voters will speak. Choose a strong political marketing research firm to dig up the data, trends, and voter insights you need to win.

Click here to see how our political marketing reseach can help your campaign.

Posted in Blog