Donald Trump is hoping to use his Twitter account to affect a George special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Tom Price, who joined the administration as secretary of Health and Human Services.
The unnamed but obvious person he’s attacking is Jon Ossoff, who is seen as the biggest Democratic threat in Tuesday’s election.
The super Liberal Democrat in the Georgia Congressioal race tomorrow wants to protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2017
Eighteen candidates from all parties are seeking Atlanta’s 6th Congressional District seat, which Republicans have held for decades and is now up for grabs after Price joined the Trump administration as secretary of Health and Human Services.
While Trump did not explicitly name Jon Ossoff in his tweet, the 30-year-old Democrat has emerged as the leading contender in the closely-watched race.
In his tweet, Trump inaccurately characterized Ossoff’s immigration stance. The candidate has spoken in favor of securing the U.S. borders.
The White House did not provide comment.
Ossoff dismissed Trump’s tweet.
“While I’m glad the president is interested in the race, he is misinformed,” Ossoff said in a statement.
At an April 9 candidate forum, Ossoff spoke in favor of securing the borders. He did, however, have harsh words for Trump’s immigration promise to deport all undocumented immigrants.
“The notion that we are going to massively deport more than 11 million people is absurd. There is no way a program like that could be implemented constitutionally, in a way that is fiscally responsible or in a way that is humane,” Ossoff said. “The only real solution is comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders and provides a path to legal status for non-felons who are here without proper documentation.”
That message is also delivered in a civil rights and liberties section on his campaign website.
“America needs a strong border policy that protects American citizens and American jobs,” the section said. “We should welcome those strivers who, like our own forebears, seek the opportunity to work hard, play by the rules, and build better lives in America.”
Ossoff also scoffed at another idea Trump floated during the presidential campaign. Ossoff’s campaign website says he believes “it’s unconstitutional to ban anyone from entering our country on religious grounds.”
Trump’s executive orders to temporarily stop the entry of individuals from certain countries have been criticized by immigrant advocates and Democrats as a “Muslim ban.” (Those orders have been halted by courts.)
NumbersUSA, an advocacy group that promotes reduced immigration, rates candidates on a wide range of issues, such as their position on amnesty, ending birthright citizenship and border security.
On whether Ossoff is on the side to secure the border, NumbersUSA gave Ossoff a “Yes” rating.
NumbersUSA said it bases its ratings on responses to its survey or on candidate statements on campaign websites and in news reports.
Trump’s tweet called out Ossoff for wanting to “protect criminals” and “raise taxes.” But those characterizations also misrepresent the facts.
Ossoff’s campaign website said he would work to empower law enforcement with tools and resources needed to bring down organized criminals, but would also seek to reduce mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders. Ossoff also said he would work to “reduce the tax burden on small businesses and simplify small business tax filing.”
President Donald Trump on Monday attacked his political enemies seeking an upset in Georgia’s special congressional election, blasting the leading Democratic candidate as a “super liberal” who “wants to protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes!”
Trump did not expound on his unfounded accusations about 30-year-old Jon Ossoff, but the president’s Twitter broadside just a day before the special primary underscores how big a Democratic victory would be nationwide and in the historically conservative northern suburbs of Atlanta.
Ossoff, who has used anti-Trump sentiments nationally to collect at least $8.3 million in campaign contributions, countered Monday that Trump is “misinformed,” but added that he’s “glad the president is interested in the race.”
Republicans and Democrats alike see the closely watched contest as an important barometer of Trump’s standing ahead of 2018 midterm elections, when Democrats will try to regain control of Congress.
The Georgia district, represented previously by Trump’s new health secretary, Tom Price, encompasses reliably Republican territory across parts of three metro Atlanta counties. But Trump underperformed here in November, barely edging Democrat Hillary Clinton and falling short of a majority. In 2012, by contrast, Republican nominee Mitt Romney garnered more than 60 percent of the vote.
Even the leading Republican candidates concede that Ossoff will lead an 18-candidate “jungle primary” that places all candidates on the same ballot. The question is whether he can win an outright majority.
GOP hopeful Karen Handel said Monday that she is confident enough Republicans will cast ballots to hold Ossoff short of a majority, thus setting up a June 20 runoff between the Democratic upstart and Tuesday’s top Republican performer.
“Republican voters are not going to sit by and let this district go to a Democrat,” Handel said.
But the mere possibility has political observers across the country watching closely. Both major parties see the well-educated, affluent district as a key test of Trump’s popularity among the kinds of voters who will decide whether to hand House control back to Democrats next year.
The attention grew even more intense after last week’s special congressional election in Kansas, where Republican Ron Estes won by just single-digits in a Wichita-based district that Trump had carried easily.
For her part, Handel, a GOP establishment favorite who served previously as Georgia secretary of state, has worked not to localize the race.
“My closing argument is the same as my opening argument, that we need an experienced individual with a track record of delivering real results,” she said as she campaigned in an upscale shopping district Monday.
That has made her an outlier among top Republican contenders.
Wealthy technology executive Bob Gray has cozied up to Trump from the start, running ads that show him, literally, draining a swamp – a not to one of Trump’s campaign signatures. Gray pledges to be a “willing partner” for the new administration.
Former state Sen. Judson Hill is touting his endorsement from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, one of a gaggle of Republican presidential hopefuls that Trump vanquished. Hill’s campaign used Rubio on a recorded phone pitch to Republican households over the weekend.
Ossoff, meanwhile, has tried to capitalize on intense anti-Trump sentiments among liberals, while still coaxing disaffected independents and moderate Republicans who normally wouldn’t consider voting Democratic.
In his response to Trump’s tweet, Ossoff said he is “focused on bringing fresh leadership, accountability and bipartisan problem solving to Washington.”
National Republicans have sought to blunt Ossoff’s momentum by tying him to national Democrats, particularly House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The California Democrat is an unpopular figure in this Georgia district that once sent former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to Capitol Hill.
Still, that message hasn’t come with the same financial muscle as Ossoff’s non-stop television campaign. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a political action committee backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, has put more than $2 million into Ossoff attacks, an impressive sum but only about a quarter of the Democrat’s campaign haul.
Ossoff’s path to an outright victory may depend on low Republican turnout.
Almost 55,000 voters cast early ballots, according to the Georgia Secretary of State. Various campaigns say they expect somewhere between 100,000 and 125,000 total votes out of nearly 440,000 registered active voters. The lower the turnout, the greater the chance that Ossoff’s enthusiastic core of support will clear the majority threshold.