04/19/2017 08:04 AM EDT
By Elana Schor (firstname.lastname@example.org or @eschor)
With an assist from Austin Wright
OSSOFF TO RUNOFF - Georgia's 6th district is headed for a runoff. The race to fill the seat left open by former Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), now President Donald Trump's health and human services secretary, became a national bellwether as Democrat Jon Ossoff raked in $8.3 million for a failed bid to win the majority vote that would have spared him the need to face a Republican head-to-head on June 20.
But Ossoff ultimately maxed out at 48 percent. That's a bit more than 1 percent ahead of Hillary Clinton's showing in the district last year. Former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel handily took second place, setting herself up as Ossoff's June opponent.
'Bring it on': That was Ossoff's election-night challenge to super PACs and other outside groups gearing up to go big for Handel while Trump himself touted the runoff as "a big 'R' win' in a tweet early Wednesday. Indeed, both parties "quickly sought to spin the inconclusive results as a major win for their side -- as well as a statement" on where Trump stands with the electorate, Elena Schneider reports: http://politi.co/2pzMfdl
The brutal question Democrats face now: When do we start winning? The party is searching for an early win to keep grass-roots motivation high amid Trump's low approval ratings and congressional Republican stumbles. But Ossoff's failure to break 50 percent, on the heels of another miss last week in an even tougher Kansas special election race, underscores the pitfalls of playing the underdog. Gabe Debenedetti with more: http://politi.co/2pB3smG
SENATE DEMS FILL THEIR POCKETBOOKS - Democrats are facing a rough Senate map in 2018, with 25 seats to hold onto compared with only nine for the GOP. But they're getting a boost of confidence from stellar first-quarter fundraising numbers posted by most of the 10 Democrats up for reelection in states Trump won, including six who raked in more than $2 million.
"Strategists also hope the numbers will scare off potential GOP challengers at a time when Republicans are struggling to recruit candidates," Seung Min and Kevin Robillard report. For their parts, "Republicans say it's too soon to sweat the Democratic incumbents' fundraising." Check out their full report: http://politi.co/2pPMvEq
One of those high-fundraising Dem incumbents, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), also benefited Tuesday from the first ads of the 2018 cycle by Majority Forward, an outside nonprofit aligned with Senate Democrats' super PAC. The $500,000 radio ad buy highlights McCaskill's work on behalf of rural hospitals. Kevin again with the details: http://politi.co/2pzLL71
HAPPY NATIONAL GARLIC DAY! It's Wednesday, April 19, and thank you for reading POLITICO's Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill.
TUESDAY'S MOST CLICKED: Gabe Debenedetti's look at the Hollywood liberals stumping for Ossoff in Georgia took top honors.
DENHAM COMES OUT AGAINST GOP HEALTH CARE BILL -- Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), who has previously expressed concerns about the House Republican health care bill, is now making clear he's opposed unless there are significant changes, the Los Angeles Times reports. At a town hall, Denham said he wants major parts of Obamacare to stay. "I've expressed to leadership that I'm a 'no' on the health care vote until it is responsive to my community," he told his constituents. "There are things in the Affordable Care Act we expect to stay."
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SANDERS LEADS DEM UNITY TOUR, STILL NOT A DEM -- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez made the second stop on their eight-stop "unity tour" in Louisville on Tuesday, but Sanders wasn't going to go all the way towards unifying with the party whose presidential nomination he nearly captured last year. Sanders "still does not consider himself a Democrat," The Hill reports. "If the Democratic Party is going to succeed - and I want to see it succeed - it's gonna have to open its door to Independents," Sanders said during an MSNBC interview last night.
Flashback: When Sanders joined Democratic leadership the week after the election, your Huddle host reported that he had no plans to officially become a Democrat. But expect this decision to cause some lingering heartburn, particularly among Clinton supporters.
TRUMP'S MAR-A-LAGO TRIPS 'BOTHERING' ERNST - At a Tuesday town hall in her home state, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) urged Trump to spend more time at the White House than the Palm Beach estate where he's spent the majority of weekends since taking office. "I do wish he would spend more time in Washington, D.C.," Ernst told a constituent in Wall Lake, Iowa, CBS News reports.
Ernst added that she suspects Trump's travel habit "has been bothering not just me but some other members" of the Senate Republican conference. "I think that's going to be a topic of discussion when we get back to Washington, D.C."
Mind your Mar-a-Lago math: The Center for American Progress has estimated that each Trump trip to his estate costs taxpayers $3.6 million, citing a Government Accountability Office estimate of a 2013 visit former President Barack Obama made to Palm Beach and Chicago. But the GAO warned Politifact on Tuesday that their previous audit of Obama shouldn't be used to estimate costs for Trump, noting that they are currently working on an updated report on the issue.
LANKFORD: LET'S SEE TRUMP'S TAX RETURNS -- Conservative Oklahoma GOP Sen. James Lankford joined Ernst Tuesday in criticizing Trump (albeit gently) during a town hall back in his home state. As the Tulsa World reports, Lankford "surprised a questioner" at an otherwise calm public meeting by saying that Trump "should keep his promise" to release his returns.
AL-SEN GETTING MOORE DRAMA? Keep an eye on Alabama, where the state's suspended Supreme Court chief Justice, Roy Moore, has scheduled an unspecified "announcement" at the state Capitol today, WKRG News reports. Moore, who has made national news with ethical stumbles over publicly displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and trying to enforce an invalidated ban on same-sex marriage, was one of several candidates interviewed for the Alabama Senate seat that Republican Luther Strange now holds. The special election for the Senate seat was scheduled Tuesday for later this year.
TRANSITIONS: RUBIO AIDE TO TECHNET - Alex Burgos, deputy chief of staff to Sen. Marco Rubio, is joining TechNet as vice president of federal policy, government relations and communications, the tech industry association will announce today. Burgos has been with Rubio for eight years, including as a senior adviser to the Republican senator's 2016 presidential campaign. "Serving Senator Rubio and my home state of Florida has been the honor of a lifetime, and now I'm thrilled to partner with TechNet's members to advance the policies that will spur the next chapter of America's incredible innovation story," Burgos said in a statement.
TODAY IN CONGRESS - The House and Senate are out.
TUESDAY'S TRIVIA WINNER - Jon Deuser took the prize for correctly noting that only one president, Lyndon B. Johnson, was sworn in by a woman. (Then-Texas federal judge Sarah Hughes performed the duties aboard Air Force One after the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy.)
TODAY'S TRIVIA - Jon brings us today's question: What American county celebrates bananas with an annual fall festival that is a must-attend for candidates on the state's festival circuit?
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