AP Pretends Handel Kept Her Distance From Trump

June 21st, 2017 12:07 PM

It only took four sentences for Bill Barrow and Kathleen Foody at the Associated Press to serve up a howler in their attempt to minimize the national significance of Republican Karen Handel's victory over Democrat Jon Ossoff in Tuesday evening's Sixth District congressional election in Georgia.

Their report's fourth sentence claimed that the winner's victory speech "thank you to Trump was Handel's most public show of support of the man who wasn't embraced by many voters in the well-educated suburban Atlanta district in November."

That's utter nonsense, as the AP pair essentially admitted two times much later in their dispatch.

The AP's attempted Wednesday morning message: "Yeah, we know Trump and Pence visited the district for fundraisers, but those don't count as 'public shows of support' because those events weren't open to the public."

You've got to be kidding me.

Trump's fundraiser with Handel was known publicly, and it was obvious that Handel welcomed the President's presence, as seen in this invitation posted at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution which anyone in the world with Internet access can still readily see:


The distance from Handel's name to Trump's is about an inch.

The intrepid wire service reporters never explained how their claim that Handel kept her "public" distance from Trump can possibly square with what they finally admitted in Paragraphs 20 and 21 of 24 (bolds are mine):

Handel insisted for months that voters' choice had little to do with Trump. She rarely mentioned the administration, despite holding a closed-door fundraiser with the president earlier this spring. She pointed voters instead to her "proven conservative record" as a state and local elected official.

Protestations aside, Handel often embraced the national tenor of the race, joining a GOP chorus that lambasted Ossoff as a "dangerous liberal" who was "hand-picked" by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. She also welcomed a parade of national GOP figures to Atlanta to help her raise money, with Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence holding fundraisers following Trump's April visit.

Claiming that your race is more about your positions and qualifications than the country's president is not the same as keeping one's distance from him. It's a wise campaign strategy. After all, Handel's name was the one on the ballot, and she had previously held statewide office. Emphasizing her personal advantages was an especially helpful tactic in this race because Democrats tried to make it solely about rejecting Trump. Democrats had to do this because the list of positive reasons to support Ossoff was prohibitively short.

If Trump and Pence were truly toxic or even problematic, Handel would have made sure they never set foot in GA-06 during the campaign — something we saw throughout the land during congressional campaigns in 1994, 2006 and 2010 when Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, respectively, were quite unpopular.

There was also this contradictory anecdote in Paragraph 14:

"She personally told me she was rock solid" with the president, said (Joe) Webb, 70 (a Handel supporter from Marietta). He added that 6th District Republicans united against a Democratic candidate many saw as a tool of his national party leaders.

Surely Mr. Webb, who from all appearances was not a Handel campaign insider, is not the only person to whom the candidate indicated her "rock solid" support for Trump, and there should be little doubt that she occasionally said this to supporters and potential supports in public.

A post-mortem at Politico summed matters up as follows:

Anti-Trump sentiment from base voters wasn’t enough to push them over the edge in districts that also contain plenty of moderates, and Democratic frustration with the inability to connect has started to bubble over.

Much of the rest of what Barrow and Foody wrote comes off as wishful thinking:

(Paragraphs 1 through 3)

Republican Karen Handel declared victory in Georgia's 6th Congressional District with a promise that she'll work to gain the confidence of voters who backed her Democratic opponent.

But Handel's thank you to President Donald Trump in the same speech Tuesday night is unlikely to comfort backers of the Democrat who came to symbolize anti-Trump resistance.

Handel won about 52 percent of the vote to quell the upstart phenomenon of Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old Democrat who raised more than $23 million and became a symbol of opposition to Trump.

(Paragraph 11)

Handel's tough race, combined with closer-than-usual GOP House victories in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina, suggests Trump will dominate the coming election cycle, forcing Republicans to make peace with him, for better or worse.

One paragraph from the AP dispatch, however, had a distinctly truthful ring to it:

A day after the election, Democrats are left with the bitter hope of another tighter-than-usual margin, still searching for a contest where anti-Trump energy and flush campaign coffers actually add up to victory.

Those elements aren't adding up to victory because they're hardly ever enough for victory. The party hasn't figured out that it needs solid candidates who have more to say than "I'm with the anti-Trump Resistance!" Or maybe the problem is that they can't find any.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.