Democrat Jon Ossoff is running in the special election primary to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Georgia's 6th district.
Dustin Chambers/Jon Ossoff Campaign
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Story highlights

Polls show Democrat Jon Ossoff likely to come up short of 50% needed to avoid a runoff

18 total candidates are running for the seat of HHS Secretary Tom Price

(CNN) —  

As Georgia voters go to the polls to choose a new member of Congress in the 6th district today, President Trump wants to make sure he’s on their minds.

In the past 36 hours, Trump has fired off a series of tweets about the race in which Democrat Jon Ossoff is trying to win the seat outright against a crowded field of 17(!) other candidates.

On Tuesday morning as polls began to open in the suburban Atlanta district, Trump blasted off two tweets.

Here’s the first:

And the second:

The message is unmistakeable: If you like Trump and his policies, you need to vote against Ossoff.

What’s interesting about Trump’s seeming strategy to make the race a referendum on his first 89 days as president is that this district isn’t exactly Trump territory. While the district has a long Republican pedigree – this is the area that elected Newt Gingrich to Congress and went for Mitt Romney by more than 20 points in 2012 – Trump barely eked out a victory last November.

Why? Because this is a prototypical establishment Republican district. These are Republican voters but the sort much more comfortable with the brand of genteel conservatism offered by Speaker Paul Ryan than the more in-your-face approach of Trump. These voters are more Waldorf Astoria than Wal-Mart.

What would compel Trump to put his first 89 days on the line then in a district that isn’t ready-made for his version of the Republican party? I’ve got two theories.

The first is that Trump is a creature of cable TV and the political narratives it creates. (New York magazine’s Jon Chait wrote an excellent piece on Trump and TV that you really should read.) The narrative over the last week or so – as people outside of Georgia have started to pay attention to the race – is that an Ossoff victory would signal a rejection by Republicans of how Trump has performed in his first 100-ish days.

Trump is clearly focused on racking up wins before the 100 day mark and you can easily imagine him touting the fact that Democrats said they would win two seats – in Kansas and today in Georgia – because of his unpopularity, but failed to win either.

Which brings me to my second theory: Trump either believes or has been told that it’s increasingly likely Ossoff won’t make it to 50% today, meaning that the race will move to a runoff in June – a race that will almost certainly favor the Republican candidate. (Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter Greg Bluestein suggested as much in a conversation I had with him on Monday.)

Trump likes to win, or, more accurately, to not lose. If he had reason to believe that Ossoff was likely to make the 50 percent threshold today, you can be sure he would either have stayed silent on the race or begun to badmouth either the Republican candidates or the GOP establishment (or both!) for mishandling the race somehow.

What Trump seems to be doing here is jumping in at the last minute to a race that looks to be trending in Republicans’ favor anyway, a move that allows him to take credit for keeping Ossoff under 50 percent and thereby increasing chances of the district staying in GOP hands.

Trump is far from the only politician who gloms on to what looks like a favorable political situation in search of some credit. But that doesn’t change the fact that that’s exactly what Trump appears to be doing in Georgia today.