Trump seizes on Republican victory in Georgia to push agenda

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump knocked Democrats on Wednesday for obstructing his agenda, one day after a fellow Republican won a congressional race in Georgia that was widely seen as a referendum on his young, turbulent presidency.

Former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel on Tuesday defeated political newcomer Democrat Jon Ossoff, 52 percent to 48 percent. The 4-point win in the most expensive congressional race in history was a blow to Democrats, who sought to wrest control of a suburban Atlanta district that Republicans have held since the 1970s.

The election will not significantly change the balance of power in Washington, where Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress.

RELATED: Reaction to Karen Handel's win in Georgia special election

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Reaction to Karen Handel's win in Georgia special election
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Reaction to Karen Handel's win in Georgia special election
Things are looking great for Karen H!
Laughing my #Ossoff
#Ossof Race better be a wake up call for Democrats - business as usual isn't working. Time to stop rehashing 2016 and talk about the future.
Congratulations to Karen Handel for winning the Georgia special election. I look forward to working with her in Congress.
Congratulations to @karenhandel on her hard fought victory! #GA6 https://t.co/wCyiizUQLL
Congrats @karenhandel looking forward to working with you in Congress!
Congratulations to @karenhandel!! I look forward to serving with you in the House of Representatives. #MAGA
Once again, we are reminded that excessive money can't make up for bad candidates. Congratulations Karen on a great… https://t.co/TVUiz7UeN3
Congratulations to my friend @karenhandel on a race well run. She's a solid conservative who will be a steadfast voice for GA in DC. #gapol
Congratulations to Karen Handel on her big win in Georgia 6th. Fantastic job, we are all very proud of you!
Thanks to everyone who breathlessly and snarkily proclaimed #GA06 as a "referendum on POTUS @realDonaldTrump". You were right. #winning
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Democrats on Tuesday also lost a special election in neighboring South Carolina, where Republican Ralph Norman easily prevailed over Democrat Archie Parnell in a seat formerly held by Republican Mick Mulvaney, who is now Trump's budget director.

The victories could boost Republicans' confidence as they struggle to advance health and tax legislation that has been bogged down by infighting and investigations into whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russia in last year's presidential election.

"Democrats would do much better as a party if they got together with Republicans on Healthcare,Tax Cuts,Security," Trump said on Wednesday morning in a tweet after the election. "Obstruction doesn't work!"

Republicans can also now breathe a sigh of relief with the knowledge that they can still win in the kind of affluent, educated districts that often favor Democrats - even with a president who has divided voters in their own party.

After Tuesday's win, Handel thanked Trump at her victory rally.

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"Tonight I stand before you, extraordinarily humbled and honored at the tremendous privilege and high responsibility that you ... have given me," Handel told a boisterous crowd that chanted Trump's name.

Ossoff initially campaigned on a promise to "make Trump furious" but more recently refrained from taking on the president as he tried to win over centrist voters. He had enlisted few prominent Democrats to campaign on his behalf.

Both candidates tried to focus on local issues and avoided mentioning Trump, whose approval rating sits at 37 percent, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.

That did not stop Trump from weighing in on Twitter, urging voters to support Handel before the election and celebrating her victory afterward.

"Fantastic job, we are all very proud of you!" he posted Tuesday night.

Spending on the race reached at least $57 million, nearly twice the previous record, according to the Center for Responsive Politics watchdog group. The special election was held to fill the seat vacated by Tom Price after Trump appointed him as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

RELATED: Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel election day events

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Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel election day events
Jon Ossoff supporters celebrate his lead over his opponent in Georgia's 6th Congressional District special election, at an election night event in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 20: Georgia's 6th Congressional district Republican candidate Karen Handel addresses supporters gathered at Hyatt Regency at Villa Christina on June 20, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff are running against each other in a special election to fill the congressional seat vacated by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
Supporters of Democrat Jon Ossoff wait for the polls to come in at Ossoff's election night event in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
MARIETTA, GA - JUNE 20: Joe Webb of Marietta, a supporter of Republican candidate Karen Handel waves campaign signs outside of the East Cobb Government Center on June 20, 2017 in Marietta, Georgia. Handel and Ossoff are running against each other in a special election to fill the congressional seat vacated by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
Supporters of Democrat Jon Ossoff wait for the polls to come in at Ossoff's election night event in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
Republican candidate Karen Handel arrives to vote in Georgia's 6th Congressional District special election at St Mary's Orthodox Church, her polling place in Roswell, Georgia, U.S., June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Bita Honarvar
ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 20: Claire Kiely and others watch election results come in on a television screen setup at the election party for Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff being held at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North Hotel in the race for Georgia's 6th Congressional District on June 20, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Ossoff ran in a special election against his Republican challenger Karen Handel in a bid to replace Tom Price, who is now the Secretary of Health and Human Services. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 20: Campaign workers decorate the ballroom with balloons for Jon Ossoff's election night watch party in Atlanta, Ga., on special election day, June 20, 2017. Democrat Ossoff is facing off against Republican Karen Handel in the special election to fill the seat vacated by current HHS Secretary Tom Price. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 20: People react to election results that show their candidate Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff up against his challenger at an election night party being held at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North Hotel in the race for Georgia's 6th Congressional District on June 20, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Ossoff ran in a special election against his Republican challenger Karen Handel in a bid to replace Tom Price, who is now the Secretary of Health and Human Services. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 20: Jon Ossoff supporters cheer early elections results at Ossoff's election night watch party in Atlanta, Ga., on special election day, June 20, 2017. Democrat Ossoff is facing off against Republican Karen Handel in the special election to fill the seat vacated by current HHS Secretary Tom Price. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 20: People watch election results come in on a television screen setup at the election party for Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff being held at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North Hotel in the race for Georgia's 6th Congressional District on June 20, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Ossoff ran in a special election against his Republican challenger Karen Handel in a bid to replace Tom Price, who is now the Secretary of Health and Human Services. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Democrats said they had turned a conservative stronghold into a competitive district.

"We showed the world that in places where no one thought it was even possible we could fight (that) we could fight," Ossoff told supporters.

Still, the defeat was sure to prompt soul-searching in a party that is shut out of power in Washington and has steadily lost influence at the state level in recent years. Despite spending more than $30 million, Ossoff lost the district by a wider margin than Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats are 0 for 4 in congressional elections this year, having earlier lost races in Kansas and Montana.

"All the Fake News, all the money spent = 0," Trump wrote on Twitter overnight.

(Additional reporting by Amanda Becker and Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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