GEORGIA - For the second time in a week, Republicans dodged a potential political cataclysm.
Last Tuesday it was a special election in Kansas where the Republican candidate did just enough to win. This Tuesday it was another special election -- this one in suburban Atlanta -- where a slew of GOP candidates managed to keep Democrat Jon Ossoff just under 50%, forcing a June runoff.
An Ossoff victory, which nearly came to pass despite the long Republican tradition in the district, would have sent even marginally vulnerable House Republicans into a panic that the unpopularity of President Donald Trump could bring them down next November.
"This race is absolutely and entirely a referendum on President Trump," said one Republican consultant granted anonymity to speak candidly about the contest. "Every single vote Jon Ossoff receives is a rebuke of Trump from within GA-06."
Below you can find a live feed of local and national news sources covering the election.
Live election results for Georgia Special Election (Polls closed at 7pm):
It's a "jungle primary" featuring 18 candidates -- including 11 Republicans and four Democrats. If no one tops 50%, the top two finishers will advance to a June runoff.
Really, though, it's all about Ossoff -- the only candidate who is expected to be in the ballpark of 50%.
The 30-year-old former congressional staffer and documentary filmmaker carries the weight of the anti-Trump resistance on his shoulders. In large part thanks to the liberal blog Daily Kos, Ossoff raised a staggering $8.3 million in the first quarter of 2017 -- a figure made possible by his stature as the only Democrat with a clear path to flipping a Republican-held seat in one of the four special elections to replace Trump Cabinet selections this spring.
Ossoff benefits from being the only serious Democrat candidate, while Republicans have seen infighting among their 11 candidates -- including several with high-profile support and campaigns, including former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, state Sen. Judson Hill, businessman and former state Sen. Dan Moody and Johns Creek City Councilman Bob Gray.
For Democrats, the race also offers a preview of its 2018 roadmap. The suburban district has all the characteristics -- diversity, including Latino voters, higher-than-average education levels and a younger population -- of those it hopes to flip in areas like Orange County, California, and the Texas suburbs.
It took a sudden evolution for the district to become competitive at all. Mitt Romney carried it over Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election by more than 23 percentage points, after all.
But 2016 told a much different story. Trump bested Hillary Clinton in the district by just 1.5 points. And Clinton carried Cobb County -- a key population base of the district. It was the first time a Democrat had won Cobb County since Georgia's Jimmy Carter was on the ballot.
Trump has repeatedly weighed in on the race in recent days, tweeting Monday: "The super Liberal Democrat in the Georgia (congressional) race tomorrow wants to protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes!"
He also recorded a robocall attacking Ossoff the evening before the special election and telling voters they need to vote for any of the Republicans in the field.
"If you don't vote tomorrow, Ossoff will raise your taxes, destroy your health care and flood our country with illegal immigrants," Trump said. "Vote Republican."
Republicans have long believed that all they must do is survive Tuesday without Ossoff hitting the 50% mark. If he falls short, the party believes Republican voters will coalesce around their nominee, preventing Ossoff's numbers from climbing any higher in a runoff.
Democrats, though, note that Ossoff -- who has dominated the airwaves -- has still faced an onslaught of more than $4 million in attack ads from the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC.
"Ossoff will finally have an opponent to set up a clear and beneficial contrast. Until now, the Republican candidates have faced very little scrutiny or negative ads," said Meredith Kelly, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's communications director.
Ossoff has faced criticism for the amount of money coming from outside the region and the fact that while he's originally from the district, he doesn't currently live there now.
Ossoff defended himself against the criticism Tuesday.
"I grew up in this district," Ossoff said, speaking to CNN's Alisyn Camerota on "New Day." "I grew up in this community. It is my home. My family is still there."
Ossoff has said he'll move back to the district after his girlfriend finishes medical school nearby.
"It's something I've been very transparent about," he said. "I am proud to be supporting her career. As soon as she finishes her medical training, I will be 10 minutes back up the road where I grew up."
Earlier updates on Georgia Special Election Day
Georgia voters continue to stream into polling sites in the suburbs north of Atlanta to cast their ballots in the special election to fill the 6th Congressional District seat.
Polls opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday and will stay open until 7 p.m. Local election officials have reported steady turnout all day, and state officials have received few reports of problems.
Voters arriving at North River Baptist Church in Roswell found a line of more than 30 people stretching out through the front door and into the parking lot on Tuesday afternoon.
A brief rain shower prompted some to return to their cars until the sun returned.
The district, which spans parts of Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb counties, has been in Republican hands since 1979. Democrats are trying for an upset.
Copyright 2017 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit - All rights reserved.