Jon Ossoff's campaign played nice — and Republican attack ads knocked him out

Here's a look at how Ossoff, Handel and outside interest groups played a role in the most expensive election ever

Published June 21, 2017 2:21PM (EDT)

 (YouTube/ Congressional Leadership Fund)
(YouTube/ Congressional Leadership Fund)

Jon Ossoff, as the pre-election story goes, was an anti-Donald Trump candidate because he connected with anti-Trump voters across America in order to "Make Trump Furious." Funded by mostly small donations of less than $200, he wasn't focused on the issues like his Republican challenger, Rep.-elect Karen Handel, was.

Handel's campaign speeches were almost always on the issues, "[she] talked up her experience in Georgia of balancing budgets, creating jobs and keeping taxes low."

But a look at the campaign ads tells a different story. The Ossoff campaign focused on portraying him as a serious, focused problem-solver, while the Handel campaign cast him as an inexperienced, lying, terrorist-loving, weak San Francisco hippie politician.

Here's an ad from the Handel campaign, painting Ossoff as a puppet of Iran who may or may not give the country the green light to nuke Georgia.

Meanwhile, the Republican Congressional Leadership Fund — a Republican super PAC — spent part of their $6.5 million in funds they poured into this race to show that Ossoff wasn't a puppet of Iran. No, he was a puppet of San Francisco.

The attack ads on Ossoff were consistent, clear messages.

It is true that Ossoff did make a campaign ad against the president. That ad came in March, before the April 18 run-off election, and focused on Trump's Twitter habit.

But after the run-off election, Ossoff's campaign strategy was to position himself as a non-partisan, independent voice for the Georgia district — determined to spur economic growth on the heels of new high-tech jobs and cutting government spending.

For the supposed anti-Trump candidate, Ossoff's messages were pretty upbeat, like this one about how much money Washington was wasting.

Both candidates benefitted from — or should we say, hammered by — spending from outside interest groups. The conservative Club for Growth attacked Handel before the runoff election on her spending habits.

Handel's spending habit was a target for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the DCCC — which provided the teeth for Ossoff's campaign.

But no ad roundup is complete without the best, most absurd campaign ad of the year so far.

By Michael Glassman

Michael Glassman is on Salon’s Breaking News team. You can find him on Twitter at @warnkemg

MORE FROM Michael Glassman