One early lesson from Georgia-6: Pelosi a potent campaign villain

A screenshot of a Congressional Leadership Fund attack ad against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Credit: Tamar Hallerman

Credit: Tamar Hallerman

A screenshot of a Congressional Leadership Fund attack ad against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

President Donald Trump may have been the 800-pound gorilla in Georgia's 6th District race, but Nancy Pelosi ended up being the albatross.

Republican Karen Handel's larger-than-expected win over Democrat Jon Ossoff Tuesday proved how potent her side's messaging regarding the House minority leader could be in mobilizing GOP voters.

Handel and her allies took every opportunity on the campaign trail to frame Ossoff as a shill for the California Democrat whose values were more in line with Pelosi's home base of San Francisco than Georgia's.

"Let me tell you something, he's a puppeteer and the strings are being pulled by Democrats and the Nancy Pelosi," Agriculture Secretary and former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue said of Ossoff at a rally last weekend.

Polling ahead of Tuesday's race indicated Pelosi was deeply unpopular in the 6th District. And on the campaign trail, Handel would often mention the first female speaker of the House more than she would the president.

"He's raised millions outside of Georgia from Nancy Pelosi and outsiders who just don't share our priorities," Handel said of Ossoff in one of her final TV spots. Outside groups such as the House Republican-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund also frequently invoked Pelosi in their own attack ads.

The gambit worked. Paired with her frequent reference to the fact that Ossoff lived outside of the 6th District, Handel was able to mobilize enough of her base's voters around the message that her opponent wasn't one of them. And that proved to be more than enough to counteract the enthusiasm Ossoff was able to harness on the left.

We expect to see much more of the same from Republicans in 2018.

Read more: Handel celebrates following win in Georgia's 6th District

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