It’s impossible to read the result in Georgia’s Sixth—the most expensive congressional race in U.S. history—as anything but a huge Republican victory. Notwithstanding national polls suggesting about 39 percent approval for the Republican president, a more-or-less standard-issue Republican candidate won by about 4 percentage points in exactly the kind of affluent, educated district supposedly most at risk in the Trump era. Whatever distaste they may inwardly feel for President Trump’s antics, when it comes time to vote, the Republicans of Cobb, DeKalb, and Fulton Counties did not express it at the ballot box.
But a big win is not the same thing as good news. The special elections of May and June 2017 offered Republicans a last chance for a course correction before the 2018 election cycle starts in earnest. A loss in Georgia would have sent a message of caution. The victory discredits that argument, and empowers those who want Trumpism without restraint, starting with the president himself.
Trump has practiced rare circumspection over the past week. When he departed for Camp David on Saturday, journalists prepared themselves for a weekend firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Instead, the president for once kept cool. Whatever intervention was staged, it worked. Will it now continue to work? Remember when Donald Trump tweeted that outlier Rasmussen poll showing him with 50 percent approval? Not many people took that poll seriously, including Trump’s own people. But the president believed it, and his belief has now seemingly been ratified. Trump will hear loud and clear the message: “I’m getting away with this. My voters are sticking with me. Let Trump be Trump. Dial it up!”