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Republicans start to sweat over Atlanta special election

The upcoming congressional special election in Georgia should be an easy one for the GOP. So why are Republicans showing signs of panic?
Traffic thickens on Interstate 75/85, Feb. 25, 2015, in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo by David Tulis/AP)
Traffic thickens on Interstate 75/85, Feb. 25, 2015, in Atlanta, Ga. 
So far in 2017, special elections have largely gone Democrats' way, but in each instance, these were state legislative races. The real test will come next month in a congressional special election in a Republican district in Georgia.In theory, keeping the seat, which was held by Tom Price before he became HHS secretary, should be easy for Republicans, but as the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported yesterday, GOP officials appear to be quite concerned.

A Republican super PAC has unleashed a $1.1 million ad barrage against Jon Ossoff, a Democratic newcomer who is attracting national attention and a torrent of fundraising in his campaign to flip a conservative suburban Atlanta district.The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC backed by House GOP leaders, bought ad time running from Thursday to the April 18 special election to air a spot replete with clips of Ossoff, in a Star Wars costume, while a member of a Georgetown University singing group.

The ad, which is available online, highlights instances of Jon Ossoff goofing around with his friends while in college. The Washington Post described it as "one of the lamest political ads you will ever see."And while that strikes me as a fair assessment, let's not miss the forest for the trees here: the fact that the commercial exists -- and is backed by a seven-figure ad buy -- is unusually good news for Democrats.We are, after all, talking about a red district -- represented by, among others, Newt Gingrich and Tom Price -- in a red state. A young, first-time Democratic candidate, with little name-recognition going into the upcoming special election, has managed to scare Republicans so severely that they've dug up silly footage of him and invested $1.1 million to show the ad to local voters.This isn't the kind of thing Republicans would do if they were feeling confident about success. In fact, the opposite is true: ads like these usually come in response to terrifying internal polling numbers.The primary in Georgia's 6th district is April 18, with a general election scheduled for June 20. The Partisan Voting Index in the district is R+12, which ordinarily would suggest a heavy GOP advantage, and yet, the ad from the House Republican leadership's super PAC points to signs of panic.