Handel first female GOP rep elected to Congress in Georgia

CNN host offers a lesson for Democrats about failure following Georgia loss

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended her leadership, and her job, on Thursday in the face of needling from President Donald Trump and grumbling from fellow House Democrats exasperated after a high-profile special election loss.

In South Carolina, Republican Ralph Norman beat Democrat Archie Parnell in a special election to replace Mick Mulvaney, Trump's director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Still others argue the Democrats' recent losses do not signal the need for a dramatic party shift.

Voters aren't taking the bait to turn local contests into national referendums just because the Democrats are bitter about Trump's victory.

Democrats also lost a special election in SC on Tuesday, in a race that Republicans were widely expected to win.

It's a theory. Democrats have come close or, at least, closer than expected in Kansas, in Montana, in Georgia, and now in SC, all Republican strongholds. That makes the party 0-for-4 in this year's races for Republican-held congressional seats.

Republicans' ability to effectively use Pelosi as their bogeyman in Georgia was especially stark when contrasted with the Democrats' tactics there.

The outcome "better be a wake-up call for Democrats - business as usual isn't working", Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., said over Twitter.

Handel, 55, becomes the latest in a line of Republicans who have represented the district since 1979, beginning with Newt Gingrich, who would become House speaker.

With Barack Obama now on permanent vacation and Bill and Hillary Clinton discredited, this leaves the Democratic Party without any effective leadership.

The message voters heard from Handel and from the outside money that joined the fight was that, if elected, Ossoff would be a pawn of Nancy Pelosi and Hollywood.

But prescriptions for how the Democrats should move forward varied. Soon mired in controversy and scandal, with historically low approval ratings, she has picked Democratic members of Congress for Cabinet positions from deep-blue districts assumed to be entirely safe.

While the party of the presidential incumbent traditionally suffers losses in midterm elections, the Republicans have a particularly favorable Senate map in 2018, featuring numerous Democrats up for reelection in states that Trump carried by large margins, including Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, as well as states spanning the Great Plains, including Montana, North Dakota, and Missouri.

Democratic leaders said there are at least 70 other districts that will be easier terrain for them than the one in Georgia after post-census gerrymandering in GOP-led states created so many heavily Republican districts. "At the end of the day with 260,000 people voting, we just ran out of Democrats and independents".

The apparent effectiveness of such attacks alarmed some fellow Democrats, and they show no signs of letting up. A few timely seat snatches might have built momentum ahead of mid-term elections due in 2018, when Democrats hope to take control of the House by flipping 24 seats.

What's more, if Republican party leadership accomplishes its aim and millions of Americans do lose their insurance so the richest of the rich can get a tax cut, these candidates won't be eking out wins in the sunbelt exurbs of Georgia's sixth - or anywhere else.

Cook Political Report's David Wasserman wrote that Tuesday night's "results were far from a disaster for Democrats, and Republicans shouldn't be tempted to believe their House majority is safe".