Political Insider

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Ossoff laces into Trump as he eyes a Georgia 6th comeback bid

In post-mortems of Democrat Jon Ossoff’s defeat, the 6th District candidate was critiqued over his refusal to hit President Donald Trump harder in the waning days of the campaign. If he runs for the suburban Atlanta seat again, he’s signaled he won’t be pulling any punches.

In a string of tweets and speeches since his June 20 loss to Republican Karen Handel, Ossoff has torn into the president with the kind of serrated-edge criticism that he steered away from in the final stretches of that nationally-watched race.

He slammed Trump’s “both sides” response to the deadly violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va. He called the president a “weak and dishonest man” at an awards dinner. And he dubbed Trump the “incompetent POTUS” for his response to the hurricane that ravaged Puerto Rico.

“These are some bleak, bleak moments in our history,” Ossoff said Saturday at the Cobb County Democratic Party’s annual fundraiser dinner.

“If ever there were an opportunity for statesmanship and leadership and unity. And it's not only the incompetence,” Ossoff said. “It's this contempt for the victims and inability to see beyond one's own ego and vanity that is so disgusting."

Ossoff was on the losing end of the most expensive U.S. House contest in history, a $60 million race seen as an early test of GOP sway over suburban districts. Ossoff, unknown even in many local Democratic circles, shattered fundraising records to raise about $30 million as he became a household name in Atlanta.

On the campaign trail, though, Ossoff transformed himself from the “Make Trump Furious” candidate of his early days to one that later avoided serrated-aged criticism of the president. It was part of his strategy to energize liberals without turning off moderates and conservatives he needed to flip the seat.

Handel, meanwhile, wound up enthusiastically embracing Trump and any other leading GOP figure who lent her help. After Ossoff narrowly missed an outright win in the first round of voting, Handel won the head-to-head runoff matchup by a relatively comfortable 4-point margin.

Ossoff hasn’t ruled out another run for the seat, freezing for now several lesser-known Democrats hoping to challenge Handel next year. Handel's campaign has burst out a flurry of fundraising appeals warning of a comeback bid, including one last week with the headline: “Lurking.”

“I have no idea what he’s going to do. But from what I’ve heard, our old friend Jon Ossoff is seriously considering running for Congress again,” read the email, which urged her donors to pony up more cash or risk an Ossoff redux.

Ossoff, for his part, seems happy to play up the drama.

“They’re feeling a little nervous, don’t want another big showdown in the Sixth,” he told the Cobb group. “So I say we let them sweat a little longer.”

Watch a clip of his Cobb speech:

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.