Democrat Jon Ossoff is making a final push to try to win Tuesday's special election to represent a suburban Atlanta district, though he's tempering expectations in case he falls short of the majority of the vote he needs to avoid a runoff.
"I think I can win, but whether I do is up to turnout and the voters," he said in an interview. "We'll be ready for anything. Ready to fight and win a runoff if necessary."
Ossoff, one of 18 candidates sharing the same ballot on Tuesday, was a little-known investigative filmmaker and former congressional aide when he entered the race in January. But an unprecedented fundraising haul and a jolt from President Donald Trump’s critics put him in the low-to-mid 40s in most public polls.
That's well ahead of the closest Republican but short of the majority-mark he needs to escape a costly head-to-head matchup against a potentially unifying Republican. The odds are stacked against him in the district, which spans from east Cobb to north DeKalb and has for decades been held by Republicans.
"It's still within reach. We're within striking distance. Momentum is on our side," he said. "But special elections are unpredictable and we're prepared for any outcome. And we will be ready to fight and to win a runoff if it comes to it."
Once jittery Republicans sound increasingly confident they can keep Ossoff under 50 percent, thanks in part to a surge of attack ads from national groups that depict him as an inexperienced stooge of U.S. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Data suggest that conservative-leaning voters kept pace with Democrats in early voting, and GOP campaigns say internal polls indicate a strong Election Day turnout.
Add to this unpredictable mix last-minute tweets from Trump, who won Georgia by 5 points but carried the district by a narrower margin. The president referred to Ossoff as a “super Liberal Democrat” who would threaten his agenda on immigration and tax policy. Ossoff said the president was "misinformed with respect to my priorities" and said he's focused on last-ditch campaigning.
"It is just down to turnout. Special elections are special. They're hard to poll. Intensity, momentum and engagement can go a long way," he said. "It's all going to come down to turnout. All of our efforts right now are on getting out the vote."