Jon Ossoff can blame himself if he joins the long list of Democratic candidates who've lost winnable elections.
Karen Handel, Ossoff's opponent in the sixth congressional district runoff June 20, stunned Ossoff in their WSB-TV debate Tuesday night with a question that raised the issue of his living outside the district, which has shadowed him since the start of the race. In response, Ossoff stared incredulously at his opponent for a long stretch of moments, then repeated the weak defense that he lives outside the district to support his finace's going to Emory Medical School.
That display of chivalry doesn't head off the question of why Ossoff could not have rented a temporary place within the district during the election campaign, even if he spent only a couple of hours a day there.
Handel scored more points by bringing up Ossoff's refusal to participate in an Atlanta Press Club debate that CNN had planned to televise, a point that Ossoff ignored. In dodging the debate question, Ossoff again displayed a surprising lack of strategic planning. Ossoff's campaign in turning down the press club invitation gave the shaky excuse that he wouldn't participate because CNN reporters rather than local media would ask the questions.
Before Handel's four-minute flurry of punches, Ossoff appeared poised and well-prepared, almost robotic. In contrast to his controlled, unsmiling demeanor, Handel appeared awkward in trying to come off as a regular gal. Her forced laugh at saying she would like to change President Trump's twitter addiction was creepy, and her obviously rehearsed displays of outrage and anger seemed defensive and overemotional.
The special election runoff will decide who replaces Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Price to represent the GOP-dominated district in Congress. As clumsy debate moderator Justin Farmer of WSB-TV kept repeating, the race has drawn intense national attention, rising to the most expensive special congressional election ever.
Some conservatives believe Ossoff lost the election during that four-minute pounding by Handel, but he still stands a good chance of snatching the seat from the GOP. While Handel scored points in bringing up the residency issue, it's unlikely to cause much more damage. The debate issue won't be a major concern for most voters.
Yet the two mistakes reflect Democratic candidates' propensity for sabotaging their own campaigns. With all of the millions he's raised, Ossoff should have received better advice.