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Democratic US House of Representatives candidate Jon Ossoff (R) speaks with volunteers on the morning of the special election at a campaign office in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 18 April 2017. EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
Democratic US House of Representatives candidate Jon Ossoff (R) speaks with volunteers on the morning of the special election at a campaign office in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 18 April 2017. EPA/ERIK S. LESSER

Elections in Georgia: an early referendum on the Trump presidency?

Election to fill the congressional seat left vacant by Tom Price, now health secretary, became a test of the Republican brand in the Trump era.

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Republicans escaped a potentially loss on Tuesday night  by forcing a runoff in a Georgia special congressional election, seen as an early referendum in Trump. Democrat Jon Ossoff would fall short of the 50 percent needed to win outright in the crowded 18-way all-party primary.

In order to avoid a potential brutal loss for his party, president Donald Trump took to Twitter to urge Georgia Republicans to turn out for Tuesday's special congressional election in suburban Atlanta amid poll numbers showing a Democrat in the lead against a splintered GOP field.

Georgia's 6th District has belonged to Republicans since 1978. The seat was once held by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and was occupied until recently by Tom Price, who left Congress to become secretary of health and human services in the Trump administration.

Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old political newcomer who was born in the district but currently lives outside it, was well ahead of the 11 Republican candidates vying for Price's old seat.

"Democrat Jon Ossoff would be a disaster in Congress. VERY weak on crime and illegal immigration, bad for jobs and wants higher taxes. Say NO," Trump wrote on Twitter early Tuesday.

The contest was seen by some as an early referendum on the Trump presidency.

Finally, Republicans escaped a potentially brutal loss by forcing a runoff in a closely watched Georgia special congressional election.

Democrat Jon Ossoff would fall short of the 50 percent needed to win outright in the crowded 18-way all-party primary

Trump won the 6th District in the November election, but by a margin of only 3 percent.

"Republicans must get out today and VOTE in Georgia 6. Force runoff and easy win!," the president tweeted before going to bed.

The national Democratic Party has poured millions of dollars into the race and Ossoff has received a number of celebrity endorsements.

Ahead of his tweets, Trump recorded an audio message for automated telephone calls to registered Republicans in the 6th District.

"Tomorrow there is a special election for Congress in Georgia," the president says. "Only you can stop the super liberal Democrats and Nancy Pelosi's group, and in particular, Jon Ossoff." 

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